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Two dead in Miami airport charter bus crash

Two men died Saturday, when the driver of an oversized charter bus failed to heed height warnings at Miami International Airport and crashed into a concrete overpass. 

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Law enforcement officers watch as a bus which hit a concrete overpass at Miami International Airport is hauled away, Saturday. The vehicle was too tall for the 8-foot-6-inch entrance to the arrivals area, and buses are supposed to go through the departures area which has a higher ceiling, according to an airport spokesperson.

Wilfredo Lee/AP

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At Miami International Airport, two large signs warn drivers of large vehicles not to pass beneath the 8-foot-6 inch concrete overpass. Authorities say two passengers are dead and others have been critically injured after a too-tall charter bus smashed into the overpass, crumpling metal.

One of the signs attached to the top of the concrete barrier reads: "High Vehicle STOP Turn Left." The other, placed to the left of the driveway and several feet in front of the barrier, says all vehicles higher than the 8-foot-6 threshold must turn left.

Authorities said the large, white bus carrying 32 members of a church group hit the overpass after the driver got lost Saturday, killing two male passengers and leaving three other passengers critically injured.

Airport spokesman Greg Chin said the bus was too tall for the entrance to the arrivals area and that buses are supposed to go through the departures area because of its higher clearance.

The bus was going about 20 mph when it struck the overpass Saturday morning, Chin added. News photographs showed the front of the vehicle's rooftop crumpled beneath the overpass.

Osvaldo Lopez, an officer with the Miami-Dade Aviation Department, said he heard a loud noise Saturday morning and rushed to help. He said he went inside the bus and found several passengers tossed into the center aisle. He said the passengers, many of whom were elderly, remained calm.

"It was just very bloody," he added.

Police said that one man, Serafin Castillo, 86, of Miami, died at the scene. A second man identified by authorities as Francisco Urana, 56, also of Miami, died later at a hospital.

Chin said passengers told him they were part of a group of Jehovah's Witnesses headed to West Palm Beach. Police said in a news release that the group had chartered the bus to take them to a church convention there.

The group was made up of congregation members of Sweetwater's Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, said Sweetwater Mayor Manny Maroño.

"This is a tragic accident that has affected many families, as well as, our Sweetwater family," Maroño said in a statement.

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