Last year a garbage truck driven by Kaseem Smith plowed through a concrete barrier on a highway exit ramp and jettisoned 75 feet down into a popular Little Havana park. Smith survived and no one in the park was hurt.
Monday night, almost exactly a year after that spectacular incident, the city of Miami solid waste worker was killed — by a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his neck, said the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner’s Office.
At the time of his death late Monday night, Smith, 33, was still employed in Miami. But he was on a lengthy leave of absence. He was also trying to negotiate a worker’s compensation claim that would have helped him ease out of his job.
Though no one in Miami would go on record saying so, sources with knowledge of Smith’s truck crash say city investigators discussed the possibility that he tried to take his own life that February day in 2016 when the truck plunged from the I-95 overpass on Southwest Seventh Street into José Marti Park.
Smith wasn’t speeding and he wasn’t texting or fighting traffic during the President’s Day weekend incident. Sources also said a GPS tracker showed he was driving his truck outside of the designated region where he was supposed to be working.
And, in the year since the incident, those sources said, Smith never discussed the incident with anyone in human resources at the city of Miami.
A call to Gloria Garcia, the attorney Smith hired to represent him for his worker’s compensation claim, was not returned on Tuesday.
The airborne truck became an even more compelling story last year when 12 seconds of video taken from inside the cab was released. Investigators say it seemed to show Smith, suddenly and without reason, turn his steering wheel hard to the right while going 40 miles per hour with a clear roadway in front of him.
Investigators also were looking into the possibility that Smith over-corrected after twice brushing the truck against the overpass’s left guardrail.
During the three seconds it took for the truck to hit the ground, investigators say Smith is seen ejected and flying through the air like a pilot without a parachute. When rescuers arrived they found Smith wearing his yellow vest and lying on ashphalt and concrete rubble with recyclables scattered all around.
The impact was powerful enough to separate the cab from the garbage container. Smith recovered from serious injuries. The Florida Highway Patrol cited him for careless driving and not wearing a seatbelt.
City records showed the vehicle driven by Smith had been regularly maintained. The morning of the crash, two tires on the truck were replaced. There was no indication of any type of equipment malfunction.
A previous version of this article listed an incorrect month for the 2016 crash.