Miami-Dade County

Driver who plunged four stories in a van says the vehicle had a life of its own

A van crashed to the ground last Friday morning from the third level of a parking garage at Miami International Airport. The driver, Orlando Luna, was taken to JMH Ryder Trauma Center.
A van crashed to the ground last Friday morning from the third level of a parking garage at Miami International Airport. The driver, Orlando Luna, was taken to JMH Ryder Trauma Center. MDPD

Orlando Luna is as lucky as one can be when strapped inside more than 5,000 pounds of metal as it plunges four stories to the hard ground.

That's what happened to Luna, 59, on Friday when the airport van he drives for American Airlines crashed through the fourth-floor wall of an employee parking garage at Miami International Airport and landed on its roof on the concrete below.

On Tuesday, Luna, who works in American Airlines' training department with the aircraft maintenance team and who has been with the company for 35 years, gave an interview to WSVN 7 from Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Luna, a grandfather, is recuperating from injuries that include fractures in his spine, a collapsed lung, broken ribs and a black eye. He is expected to be released from the hospital Wednesday.

Luna told the station the van seemed to take on a life of its own as it accelerated. He couldn't control it, he said. Before crashing through the concrete wall of the garage the company van traveled about 16 feet.

"I felt like the vehicle was fighting with itself; like fighting against me," he told WSVN. "It was like a blur. It happened so quick."

Luna, who was wearing his seatbelt, was able to crawl out from inside the mangled white van before rescue crews arrived to whisk him to Jackson's Ryder Trauma Center.

Ryder's chief of trauma, Dr. Nicholas Namias, told WSVN if Luna's head had been unrestrained and had hit the van's roof, which took the brunt of the impact, he likely would not have survived.

"It was stunning," Luna told the news station after he saw what was left of his van. I said, 'Oh, my God, I am alive.'"

Luna SupermanWSVN.jpg
Orlando Luna, 59, wears a Superman cap at Ryder Trauma Center in this screen grab from a WSVN 7 interview on June 6, 2018, in which the American Airlines driver talks about his experience after his company van plunged four stories from a garage at Miami International Airport on June 1, 2018. WSVN 7 screen grab WSVN 7 News

Luna, clad at one point in the interview with a Superman cap on his head, said the experience was life changing.

"God has given me a new opportunity," he said, "another perspective in life."

Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.

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