5 children, 4 adults hospitalized in police-involved crash in Miami

MIAMI (WSVN) - Five kids, three adults and a Miami-Dade Police officer were hospitalized after a serious crash in Miami, Thursday.

A Miami-Dade Police cruiser and a civilian vehicle collided in Miami, Thursday evening, sending three adults, five children and an officer to the hospital, officials said.

City of Miami Police and Fire Rescue responded to the scene of the crash, near Northwest 57th Avenue and Flagler Street. Witnesses said several police cruisers were traveling southbound on Northwest 57th with lights and sirens on, when the sedan turned onto Northwest 57th and collided with one of the cruisers.

Officials said five children and three adults were in the sedan, along with one toddler and 42-year-old Hector Meraz, who was driving. The driver and toddler are in critical condition.

Nayeli Ortiz, a young girl who is a family friend of Meraz, said she was at Meraz’s side in the hospital. “Couldn’t talk … He’s not that good, no. I just pressed his hand,” she said. “We’re just close friends.”

42-year-old Hector Meraz
42-year-old Hector Meraz

Family members said Meraz suffered a brain injury, among other injuries.

Family members told 7News, Friday morning, that one of the victims no older than two 2 years old may never walk again.

Meraz’s family said the group was on the way to Wal-Mart to buy diapers.

The children ranged in age from 8 months old to 9 years old, according to MDPD. Five patients were sent to Jackson Memorial Hospital, including four as trauma alerts. Three of the children were sent to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.

The two women and four other children were in stable condition, Friday.

Family friends of the victims believe the children were not in a car seat. They said it’s possible the victims were heading to a local Wal-Mart.

Jose Mejia and his friend had just left a nearby gas station on Flagler Street and Northwest 57th Avenue, moments before the crash. Mejia said he heard several cruisers coming down the street just before 6:30 p.m.

“We heard a big bang,” Mejia said, “take a U-turn and my friend tells me, ‘Oh my god, you see what happened?’ I see a cop car stuck in a pole. I see another car. I see a guy with his head out. It was a horrible, horrible scene.”

The MDPD cruiser involved was a canine unit. MDPD said the officer was on his way to assist Miami PD in an emergency when the crash occurred. The officer, a 23-year veteran, was hospitalized but is expected to be OK. The officer’s canine is in stable condition, as well.

Mejia said he and his friend moved quickly to help.

“Then another one was shoved under the seat from how strong the impact was, and then the other one was literally thrown on top of that seat,” said Mejia.

Mejia said the crash never should have happened.

“This was a four way stop here, the lights weren’t working. How are you just gonna continue going?” Mejia said. “You have to stop and this is a result of that not stopping.”

While MDPD continues to investigate, officials said weather may have played a role.

“At the time of the incident, the traffic lights were out in all four directions,” Miami-Dade Police Detective Marjorie Eloi said, “and at the time we were in inclement weather, so that may have been a factor.”

Speaking in spanish, Meraz’s longtime friend from Honduras, Alexis Arteaga, said he didn’t know what to say when told how many people were in the car.

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