A man in his 80s was killed and more than 10 students from a Little Havana charter high school were injured — two of them critically — when a van and car collided Wednesday afternoon, Fire Rescue officials say.
The impact of the crash sent debris flying, damaged nearby parked cars and toppled the Mazda minivan carrying eight students. Some students on the sidewalk near the school suffered minor scrapes and bruises from glass shards and twisted metal, said Miami Fire Rescue Capt. Ignatius Carroll.
In total, 14 people were treated. Eight were taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital, including the man and his wife, and six Green Springs High School students, Carroll said.
“It’s a major tragedy,” Miami Police Lt. Freddie Cruz said in front of the charter high school at 3555 NW Seventh St.
The crash happened just after noon in the intersection of Northwest Seventh Street and 35th Avenue, just after the students were released from the morning session. The school has two separate schedules: 7 a.m. to noon, and 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Cruz said the students were heading east on Seventh Street to a nearby Pollo Tropical for lunch. Eight students piled in a silver Mazda MPV van, police said. The van was being driven by an 18-year-old Green Springs student, according to a letter that Enrique Palma, the school’s principal, sent to students and parents.
A black Nissan Sentra was trying to make a left on 35th Avenue when the vehicles collided, Cruz said. The van flipped and several other cars in the area were hit and damaged.
Palma said in the letter that “an oncoming car swerved into the lane of the student’s car.”
“The student swerved to avoid the oncoming car, lost control and the car flipped on its side,” he wrote.
Police have not confirmed the cause of the crash, only saying that detectives are looking into everything, including speed.
At the hospital, a teen whom friends identified as the driver of the minivan refused to comment, saying he was “too shaken up’’ to talk.
After the crash, several students rushed to help the elderly couple, said Carroll.
“It happened in front of the high school, so some of the kids were trying to help,” said Jason Sotelo, 20, whose brother Nathaniel Mendoza was injured in the crash. “And the ones who were able to get out of the car also tried to help."
The elderly driver of the car was taken to Ryder Trauma Center, where he later died. Cruz said two students were critically injured, but most were taken to the hospital for observation. A Jackson spokesperson said Wednesday evening that the hospital could not release any information.
By Wednesday afternoon, family and friends of the students trickled into Ryder to visit the injured.
Sotelo and Nathaniel’s sister, Samantha Mendoza, said their brother was waiting to get results of an X-ray to determine whether he broke his leg.
Sammy Abd-Elnabi said his sister Fatima Abd-Elnabi, 18, who is Nathaniel’s girlfriend, was also injured in the crash. Abd-Elnabi said his sister likely had a concussion and was being kept overnight for observation.
As of Wednesday night, police had not released the names of the students or the elderly couple involved.
Jose Sanchez, who was at a nearby convenience store when the accident happened, said the aftermath of the crash was hard to see.
“It's very sad,” he said. “It's overwhelming to see a gentleman just involved in an accident — you don’t like to witness those type of things.”
Miami Herald photojournalist Walter Michot contributed to this report.