An hour after a horrific hit-and-run crash at a bus stop that sent a man hurtling through a restaurant drive-through Sunday, Hialeah police had their first clue: a banged-up car being towed a mile away.
A bulletin crackling over the police radio led Officer Manuel Diez to the car, a Toyota Camry with a flat tire. The driver, Henry Paz, 27, was arrested late Sunday.
For his quick work, Diez will be considered for officer of the month and a prize of a day off and a special badge, said police spokesman Carl Zogby.
Sunday night’s crash in front of a Pollo Tropical, in full view of diners inside, killed one man and severely injured another as the car plowed into a sidewalk bus bench at West 49th Street and 16th Avenue.
According to police, the Camry left the scene and went about a mile on the rim of a flat tire. Then, the driver called a tow truck.
Paz was charged with leaving the scene of a crash with a death and serious injuries.
The charges he might face would be more severe if alcohol tests come back positive. Police said Paz told them later at the station that he had downed a couple Jack Daniels with Coke at the Chili’s Grill and Bar at the nearby Westland Mall.
Police have not yet released the identity of the man who died. The injured man, identified as 24-year-old Jonathan Manuel Cordero, was struck on the lower half of his body and lost both legs in the accident. He was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital in critical condition.
Cordero’s sister, Natalie, told Miami Herald news partner CBS 4 that her brother had just gotten off work at Home Depot and was waiting for the bus for a ride home.
“He’s an excellent guy. He’s playful. He’s funny. He is such a hard worker,” she said. “He has two jobs. Works like 50 to 80 hours a week. So it was really devastating to know he was just sitting at a bus stop and this happened to him.”
According to reports, the 2007 Toyota Camry hit the bus stop with such force that the man who was killed was thrown through the Pollo Tropical drive-through. The restaurant closed after the crash but reopened Monday.
No sign of the crash was evident on Monday afternoon. Dozens of diners crowded the Pollo Tropical and a handful of people waited outside for the bus.
None of them had any idea of the horror from just a day earlier.
Sitting on one of the two benches at the bus stop were Zoira Miranda, 27, with her son Matthew, 8.
“It’s scary,” she said when informed of the tragedy. “But one has to be very careful. This street is always very busy with traffic.”