updated 11/15/2005 12:48:53 AM ET 2005-11-15T05:48:53

A grand jury declined Monday to indict a bus driver in connection with the deaths of 23 passengers killed in a fire that destroyed the vehicle as they fled Hurricane Rita in September.

The Dallas County Sheriff’s Office had forwarded to the district attorney 23 cases of criminally negligent homicide to consider against Juan Robles Gutierrez, 37, a Mexican immigrant.

The bus, owned by Global Limo Inc. caught fire Sept. 23 from a malfunctioning back wheel. After the fire started, oxygen tanks used by some of the patients on the bus began exploding.

The grand jury’s decision not to indict Robles would not be a setback for the department’s investigation, said Sgt. Don Peritz, a spokesman for the sheriff.

“There are still many aspects of the investigation to look at,” he said in a story in Monday’s online edition of The Dallas Morning News. “You’ve got the people that leased the bus, the people that owned the bus, the people that maintained the bus.”

Officials at the Mexican Consulate in Houston expect Robles to be released on bond by Tuesday. He has been detained as a material witness in the investigation and still faces immigration charges for being in the United States illegally.

“We feel happy for him. We’ll keep supporting him until this process ends,” Adhemir Olguin, a spokesman for the consulate, said late Monday.

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