Miami-Dade County

Bus driver in fatal Miami International Airport crash charged with felony vehicular homicide

The driver of a charter bus that slammed into an overpass at Miami International Airport last December — killing three passengers on board — bonded out of jail on Thanksgiving Day after being charged with three counts of felony vehicular homicide as well as reckless driving.

The bus driver, Ramon Ferreiro, 48, said Friday that he was innocent of the charges but declined further comment on advice of his attorneys.

“You never think an accident is going to happen, but it did,’’ Ferreiro said when reached on his cell phone. “I’m not a killer ... I have nothing to hide, but my attorneys told me not to talk until after the trial.’’

Bond for Ferreiro, who was arrested earlier this week, had been set at $50,000. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Dec. 27 before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Samantha Ruiz-Cohen.

On the morning of Dec. 1 last year, Ferreiro was driving a white, 1999 Van Hool charter bus carrying 31 passengers who were headed to West Palm Beach for a Jehovah’s Witness assembly. He crashed the nearly 12-foot-tall vehicle into the airport’s lower level arrival entrance, which had a clearance of about 10 feet.

A 12-foot-long section of roof peeled off, according to police reports, killing a passenger seated in the upper section. The remaining passengers were rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where two more later died of injuries.

In the days following the crash, at least three negligence lawsuits were filed in Miami-Dade Civil Court against the charter bus company and Ferreiro. It was unclear Friday whether those suits had been resolved.

Ferreiro had a valid commercial driver’s license with the proper endorsement to carry passengers, according to state records, and had no criminal record. Miami Bus Service Corp., the charter bus company that employed Ferreiro, likewise had a clean record and no customer complaints on file with state regulators.

According to police reports based on a reconstruction of the crash and passenger statements, Ferreiro drove past a construction zone and eight different street signs warning of a low clearance before plowing the bus into the overpass. He was traveling at about 33 miles per hour in a posted 15-mile-per-hour speed zone, according to the arrest warrant.

“Despite the construction in the area, and the low clearance warning signs, the defendant continued into the airport entrance without stopping or slowing down,’’ according to the arrest warrant written by Miami-Dade Police Det. George Wilhelm.

Wilhelm’s narrative stated that passengers warned Ferreiro that he was going the wrong way, but that he disregarded their warnings.

“It should also be noted that there were no signs that the defendant sought to apply the brakes prior to the collision, nor did he seek to take any evasive action prior to slamming into the overpass,’’ Wilhelm wrote in the report.

Ferreiro, who was not hurt in the crash, cooperated with police on the day of the accident, waiving his Miranda rights and explaining to investigators that he got lost attempting to go north on the Palmetto Expressway but took the wrong route and wound up driving eastbound on the Dolphin Expressway.

Ferreiro told police that he then took the Le Jeune Road northbound exit from the Dolphin, intending to make a U-turn and find his way west until he reached the Palmetto again.

But Ferreiro wound up at the airport instead, telling police that he did not know the height of the bus he was driving.

“He also stated that he saw the signs warning of the low clearance and he saw the sign that directed buses to go to the left, but for reasons he could not explain, he disregarded the signs and wound up in the wrong lane and slammed into the overpass.’’

Wilhelm’s report did not explain why it took Miami-Dade police nearly one year after the crash to bring charges against Ferreiro.