1 killed, 3 hospitalized in fiery Miami-Dade crash involving stolen police car
A man driving a stolen Miami-Dade Police cruiser died after, authorities said, he crashed into two vehicles heading in the opposite direction, in West Miami-Dade, sending two children and their mother to the hospital, Saturday afternoon.
Miami-Dade Police and Fire Rescue responded to the scene of the fiery three-vehicle crash near Coral Way and Southwest 99th Street.
Officials said the cruiser burst into flames upon impact. “There was a report of a vehicle that was involved in an accident and had caught fire,” said Miami-Dade Police Detective Dan Ferrin.
Witnesses told 7News they heard multiple explosions. “I heard this sliding motion of the vehicle, like sliding, and then an impact, real, real loud,” said Jose Ferrer.
Cellphone video of the immediate aftermath shows witnesses bringing out a water hose from their home to try to put out the flames.
“My first reaction is, ‘He’s there. The guy is still there,'” said Pablo, a good Samaritan who tried to render aid to the victims.
Investigators said police had responded to a suspicious incident in the area of Southwest 16th Street and 107th Avenue. “As the officers were conducting the investigation, an unknown subject had entered one of the police cars and had fled in an unknown direction,” said Ferrin.
Sources told 7News the ordeal began inside a nearby Natural Chicken Grill restaurant. Surveillance video shows diners leaving behind a large black bag on a table. After concerned employees called police, an officer is seen examining the bag, and it was at that moment when, sources said, the cruiser was swiped.
“Sometimes a minor call that they get, which is not an emergency, could turn out to be a lot bigger than what it is,” said Ferrin.
Shortly after, at around 1:45 p.m., the driver struck a Honda Civic, then a Suburban SUV with a family inside.
Pablo, who did not give out his last name, told 7News the cruiser struck two vehicles going the opposite direction. “He went sideways, over the median, hit a car, and then went right through that car and hit the SUV that was in the opposite direction,” said Pablo. “[He] hit it so hard that the SUV actually jumped over to a sidewalk.”
Pablo said he approached the burning cruiser. “The guy that was driving the police car, that apparently was not a cop, he was already dead,” he said.
The good Samaritan then came to the family’s aid. “I went over to the SUV, and I checked on everybody that was there. Everybody was in shock,” said Pablo. “It was a family with a gentleman and his wife and two kids, and we just got them out of the car.”
Pablo said there was smoke coming from the Suburban, but it did not catch fire. “We opened the door. I took the first child out of the car, put her on the floor, ’cause I wanted to get everybody out,” he said.
Paramedics transported the two children inside the Suburban, ages 8 and 2, to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in serious condition, but police said they are stable. Their mother was taken to Kendall Regional Medical Center in the same condition.
The driver of the Civic and the male adult inside the Suburban were not injured.
Authorities have shut down Coral Way in both directions, from Southwest 97th to 102nd avenues, while they investigate. They urged drivers to avoid the area.
Police said speed was a factor in the crash. They have not identified the man who stole the cruiser or the victims.