Michael Paluch had settled down for a quiet Wednesday morning of computer programming at his Miami Shores bayfront home when he heard a thud and a woman shriek.
He rushed outside to find his neighbors staring at an unbelievable sight: a partially submerged brown UPS truck in Biscayne Bay.
The baffling sight played this way, police said: The UPS driver was making deliveries east down 96th Street in Miami Shores around 9:30 a.m. in his highly recognizable truck, when it apparently clipped a tree near Northeast 12th Avenue, peeling the roof back like a tin can.
Out of control, the truck careened east and catapulted through pedestrian guard rails into the bay, coming to rest about 100 feet from shore after it continued to float away from land, said Miami Shores Police Chief Kevin Lystad.
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After the crash, Paluch, 60, and other residents watched the truck and waited for signs that the driver was alive.
“Me and a few other folks were going to have to get wet if he wasn’t moving,” he said.
As police and fire rescue sped toward the bay, the stunned driver waded back to land unharmed.
Witnesses said after reaching shore, the worried-looking driver pulled out a cellphone and started making calls. UPS spokeswoman Susan Rosenberg said an investigation will determine whether the crash happened due to mechanical failure or human error.
Some residents said the truck sped into the bay without any screeches or swerving, possibly pointing toward failed brakes.
UPS was not releasing the driver’s name as of Wednesday. Lystad said identification of the driver and charges, if any, are noted in the police report, which was not finished as of Wednesday evening.
“It could be that it was something completely unavoidable for the driver,” Rosenberg said.
Next-day air delivery would have already reached its destinations by the time of the crash, she said, so the packages sitting in the water-soaked truck, which is based in a Hialeah delivery center, would most likely have been regular business or commercial delivery.
After a diver inspected the possible damage to the truck up-close, a crane lifted the truck out of the bay. The vehicle and the packages will be taken to UPS to be inspected, Rosenberg said.
Ruined items are expected to be replaced for the customers, she said, although some items may not have been harmed by the water. UPS also has a claims process for damaged items, she said.
About 10 minutes before the truck hit the water, the driver had dropped off a package at Helene MacLellan’s home down the street.
When he drove off from that stop, MacLellan said, nothing seemed wrong with the truck or the driver. It was a typical delivery.
Soon after, she got a text from a friend with a photo of the waterlogged delivery truck.
“I said, ‘Wow. Is that a floating truck?’ ” said the 53-year-old Miami Shores resident. “ ‘Wow. It just left my house.’ ”
Bellkys Blaha, of Keystone Point, was watching her children sail in the bay when the truck flopped into the water.
She wasn’t too worried at first. After all, this is Miami, and TV shows sometimes use picturesque sites like the Miami Shores bayside for action scenes. Then, she saw the sirens.
“I saw the UPS truck in the bay, and I thought they were filming a scene from Burn Notice,” she said.
Miami Herald staff photographer Walter Michot and writer Anna Edgerton contributed to this report.