SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - A driver accused of a fatal wrong-way crash on the Golden Glades Interchange in Northwest Miami-Dade is now behind bars.
Irwin Rockwell, 38, was arrested on Thursday after he was released from the hospital.
On Friday morning, he appeared before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Mindy S. Glazer.
“Sir, you were arrested for one count of vehicular homicide,” said Glazer.
According to witnesses at the scene, Rockwell made a U-turn at a median near the interchange and began driving southbound on the northbound express lanes, early Tuesday morning.
“For the record, he had a beer bottle on him, as well as the odor of marijuana emitting from the vehicle,” said Glazer.
Officials said he was behind the wheel of the silver Chevrolet SUV that crashed into a Subaru SUV that was carrying two passengers and sent the vehicle flying eight stories off the freeway.
“The impact of the collision was so powerful that it caused that Subaru to drive over the concrete barrier, driving off the overpass onto the ground, where it burst into flames,” said Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Alejandro Camacho.
The driver of the Subaru died on the scene.
Camacho said the fire caught the attention of a road ranger who jumped into action to help the victims.
“The passenger was a little bit more lucky in this instance. There was actually a road ranger who was driving on his way home [and] saw the vehicle on fire,” he said. “He stopped, ran, rendered aid and was able to get the passenger out of that car on time and potentially saved his life.”
The passenger in the Subaru, identified as 41-year-old Ed Gonzalez Ayala, was transported to Aventura Hospital where he remains in critical condition.
“We are hoping that he will survive,” said Camacho.
“Right now, he’s fighting for his life,” said William Gonzalez, Gonzalez Ayala’s father. “It’s not looking too promising, I still have my deep faith in God that, even if he comes out handicapped, that we’ll take care of him. That’s what we are: his family.”
Gonzalez Ayala’s loved ones said they are grateful for the good Samaritan who came to his rescue.
“I’m glad he’s alive, I’m grateful that he is, really,” said Adam Gonzalez, the victim’s son, “because it could have been him plus the driver [killed]. It could have been just him [killed], and the driver could have walked away.”
“The entire family is deeply grateful for his actions. Not everybody does that today,” said the victim’s father. “We would like to meet him personally and hug him and thank him for saving our son. He’s the true hero in this picture.”
The driver of the Subaru has yet to be identified.
“The Medical Examiner’s Office has not been able to identify him because of the severity of the burns,” said Camacho. “We are waiting on dental records to confirm his identity.”
Rockwell was also transported to the hospital and was taken to the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in West Miami-Dade after he was discharged.
Cellphone video captured an FHP trooper helping the suspect walk into the jail. He was wearing a neck brace.
Rockwell has been charged with vehicular homicide and is being held without bond. Authorities said his charges may be upgraded because they found an empty beer bottle in his vehicle. They are also waiting for his bloodwork results to come back.
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