Cuomo Asks For Inquiry On How Driver In Bronx Bus Crash Got License

NEW YORK (CBS NewYork/AP) — The driver at the wheel of a tour bus that crashed and killed 15 people over the weekend has a criminal history that includes manslaughter and theft convictions, officials said.

On Monday the New York State Department of Correctional Services said Ophadell Williams, 40, was convicted of manslaughter for his role in a 1990 stabbing and served just over two years. He initially had been charged with second-degree murder in the case.

He also served about three years for grand larceny for removing an $83,905 check from a Police Athletic League fund in October 1997. Williams used aliases in both those cases. He was also arrested for driving without a license and having three police scanners in 2003.

RELATED: Police: Tour Bus Crash On N.J. Turnpike Kills 2

The revelations about Williams prompted Gov. Andrew Cuomo to direct the state inspector general to look into how he was able to get a commercial driver’s license, 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon reported.

1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon hears from NTSB officials

National Transportation Safety Board officials also held another news conference late Monday afternoon restating that they wanted to gather as much information about what Williams was doing 72 hours prior to the accident.

“We want to know what he ate, what he drank, how much he slept,” said NTSB Vice Chairman Christopher Hart.

Investigators were also expected to interview Williams on Wednesday, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported.

WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reports the bus driver will be interviewed Wednesday

Friends that spoke with CBS 2’s Dave Carlin on Monday said they were unaware of Williams’ criminal record. One friend went as far as to say he respected Williams because he was a “good role model.”

On Monday night, friends told CBS 2’s Lou Young the driver was beside himself over the incident.

“He’s scared to death, man you know? He’s crying ’cause, you know, he hurt some people,” Mel Davis said.

The World Wide Tours bus left the Mohegan Sun Casino at 3:45 a.m. Saturday, headed south on I-95 and two hours later crashed near the Exit 14 ramp to the Hutchinson Parkway. A 70-year-old man who died Monday at St. Barnabas Hospital  in The Bronx became the 15th fatality from the gruesome wreck.

1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa with Sen. Schumer who wants a crackdown on tour bus companies

Williams had told police that his bus was cut off by a big rig and clipped just as it crossed the New York City line.

Hart said investigators were hearing from many witnesses.  Sources said some passengers claim Williams had already swerved at times for no reason before the accident.

“We’re hearing so many stories, conflicting often times, and we need to get to the bottom of that,” Hart told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.

Sen. Chuck Schumer addresses the issue of bus safety at City Hall - New York, NY - Mar 14, 2011 - Photo: Marla Diamond / WCBS 880

Sen. Chuck Schumer addresses the issue of bus safety at City Hall - New York, NY - Mar 14, 2011 - Photo: Marla Diamond / WCBS 880

CBS 2’s Dave Carlin spoke with at least one friend who entertained the possibility that Williams may have fallen asleep at the wheel.

“If he dozed off, he was working a double shift, triple shift — just trying to support his family,” Davis said.

The NTSB was relying on three key pieces of evidence to help patch together the moments leading up to the crash .

“We have a number of reports, some of whom are coming in saying that the driver was in fact operating southbound at a high rate of speed,” said Major Michael Kopy of the New York State Police.

Investigators hoped a rear-facing camera inside the tour bus along with a recording device called the engine control module, much like an airplane black box, will help tell them part of the story.

Investigators were also analyzing a GPS device from inside a tractor trailer that was behind the bus at the time of the crash.

WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond: Schumer Calls for Crackdown on Discount Bus Companies

Sen. Charles Schumer has called for a crackdown on the discount tour bus companies Monday and is asking the NTSB to expand its probe to look into regulations and oversight that is currently in place.

“These low cost tour bus companies have an increasingly alarming safety record that should give pause to federal regulatory agencies,” Schumer said. “The safety regime in place is not sufficiently doing the job of protecting passengers.”

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez wondered if the regulations have kept pace with a fast-growing industry.

“This is not about putting out of business this industry, this is about human life,” Velazquez said.

While no one has been charged, Kopy said “we’re conducting at this point as if in fact it is a criminal investigation. That said it is in the infant stages of the investigation.”

Investigators said they were asking any witnesses to come forward.

Below are the names of the deceased whose next of kin have been notified:

Aquino, Miguel, 55

Eng, Kam Ming, 81 – NYC

Eng, Yuk Chun – NYC

Garcia, Jose – NYC

Lee, Bing Fong – Brooklyn

Lee, Don, 76 – NYC

Mei, Biqin Tran Ninh

Wang, Jian Hua, 40

Wong, May Lin – NYC

Wong, Ock Thling, 83 – NYC

Xian, Yang T, NYC

Yeh, Michael, 65 – Brooklyn

Do you know any of the victims? Leave a comment below…

More from Dave Carlin
  • Gerald F. Madrzykowski

    I drive a tour bus parttime I retired from a freight company as an over the road driver,with much NYC experience .So being familiar with the situation I`ll give my opinion. First off…. the CDL is a big JOKE.,the intent was to get the bad driver off the road. What happened was iBECAME A SOURCE OF REVENUE ORF THE STATES . I don1t believe there are two states that charge the same rate on that I could be wrong I know for a fact that Texas and Pennsylvania
    charge differerates. Secondly I read that in New York you could buy the answers to the CDL test with the answers on a band you put on your wrist.
    they are saying that he had two CDLs if so someone dropped the ball on that one.As for his log book shame on him He had plenty of time at the casino to make it current The manslaughter carge and the theft charges should have no bearing on the case. As far as the 18 wheeler clipping him his coach had a camera in the center of the windshield that recorded front and rear. NTSB willdelve in to all that

  • jack tripper

    your wife doesnt have text messaging though i thought?

  • Jose

    Alot of Taxi drivers have criminal records too.

    • Joe

      what does their record matter? if its not related to passenger safety or welfare, then they should be able to make a living……otherwise theyll be out robbing people like you to feed themselves…..moron

      • Mr. Armenia

        not with a revoked license

    • sally rogers

      You cannot even get a TLC hack/fhv with a felony. You’re comment is not relevant and you don’t know what you’re tallking about Jose.

  • cathy

    But there for the Grace of God go I.

    • dark eyed junco

      there is no god…..your prayers wont change what happened

  • NA Rock

    If this accident never took place this driver could have worked for the rest of his life with this company and no one would have complained. He did not steal the bus, he did not kidnap the passengers neither did he rob or steal from anyone. Let’s don’t mix apples with peaches. Inmates are allowed to drive vehicles in correctional facilities and are encouraged to seek and obtain employment upon release. There are prison programs that assist inmates in obtaining their driver’s license. Let’s keep our eyes on the prize and conduct a thorough and impatial investigation. Let’s look for drugs, alcohol, lack of sleep, speeding, defects etc.

    • NY2 VIRGINIA2001

      Yes, but NOT A CDL which the FEDERAL M
      OTOR CARRIERS SAFETY ADMINISTRATION states the law,the regulations on CDL LICENSES…WHO can drive a bus, When Where How MANY HOURS…You can not be a FELON + CARRY A CDL….he may have bought one under the table?

      • Tom

        U dont kno much because u may obtain a CDL A but no Haz-mat with felony do some studying hater

  • Robert

    Let’s not forget about those “overpayed” union bus operators for NJ Transit….who just happen to be some of the safest drivers in the world. Keep that in mind when you book a trip on one of these fly-by-night bus lines.

    • dummy

      safe drivers my a*s…..i’ll admit they are better than most but they are by no means safe

  • Jean

    They need to take down the sign/poles and rebuild a new one. My heart goes out to all those have been affected.

  • nypj

    since when is it illegal to own a radio scanner?
    not really sure what his past misdeeds has to do with this indecent… however it appears that he will be spending some more time behind bars for multiple counts of manslaughter..

    • JOE

      It probably is when your license is suspended or you don’t have one or it got taken away yet you still insist on driving and don’t want to get caught…..

  • weitchu

    Can we please wait to make harsh comments about the driver, unless you were there and saw no truck clip the bus, I am just amazed by peoples conclusions before any actual evidence has officially been presented, let alone the investigation, just happy that most of you folks do not sit on jury’s, are you able to decipher evidence objectively?

    I’m just a son of an Asian immigrant

  • Mr. Armenia

    Bus companies should do background checks on their drivers. This guy is a liar…Look at his convictions.Has been in jail a numerous amount of time..

    He needs to be charged with 15 counts of murder as well as the the owners of this company should be charged as well.

  • OphadellWilliams isaLiar

    Chances are, Ophadell Williams has lied to police. He was speeding on the interstate trying to keep schedule and lost control of his vehicle. Ophadell Williams should be charged with manslaughter again and reckless driving and endangerment since he was clearly HALLUCINATING by saying a truck hit him when there was no evident damage. He is a criminal and tried to cover his deadly mistake by lying to the police.



    The drive criminal history is not relevant. We must give ex cons a chance at a decent living or else they will be forced to return to crime. What should be relevant is how he treated his poition as bus driver. if he was not concerned with safety then we should knock him for this. But not because he served time in prison. My God, we must show compassion to those who served time and are trying to earn an honest living. As far as I know, some of the best employees you can hire are ex cons as they understand the break they are getting. We too often judge instead of lending a supportive hand

  • Tommy

    These “discount” bus companies pay drivers $15 – $18 per hour with no benefits. You cannot attract talented employees in the NE when you pay $15. They get the bottom of the barrel. You get what you pay for.

  • Josh

    What the heck does the driver’s criminal history have to do with his falling asleep at the wheel? Was it a matter of convenience that he appears to have fallen asleep or would you have released this at this time had there been actual proof that his bus been clipped? What he did was negligent and in no where related to what he did years ago. Way to go CBS!

    • Robert

      He shouldn’t have been a bus driver…ever.

  • gene

    there’s Chucky not letting a tragedy go to waste.

  • S. L. McLeod

    I agree with the person who lives in RI & travels I95 frequently – I live in CT and on occasion drive to NYC _ the trip through the Bronx is scary, you can loose your life at any moment – the average speed is about 40 above the speed limit & you are forced – forced to speed – the drivers don’t care about anything, not their death, not what their death would do to their family for generations down the line, not anyone elses’ death, not what the other persons” death would do to generations of their family down the line – the only thing they care about is speed – going as fast as they can without getting a ticket – the police are powerless to do anything about it because it’s become an accepted part of the culture – 99% of drivers are speeding well above the limit, they only slow down when they see a police car – drivers actually use that strech of the road as a speedway when it’s not packed with traffic – they know the police won’t come up there at 10pm on a Sunday night & give them a ticket. If the drivers themselves are willing to die for less than less than nothing what chance have you got of changeing anything –

    • voiceofreason

      wow dude you should be an author with that frikin novel you just wrote!!!

    • Cynthia Miller

      I drive on I95 50 miles a day, six days a week. The one thing that terrorizes me is the casino bus drivers. They speed, tailgate, they change lanes without notice, straddle lines. If he rode the guardrail for 300 feet, the slid on its side for almost 500 feet, hit the pole shearing the buss almost in half, he had to be going over 100 MPH. It is about 110 miles from casino to the accident site. His average was 63MPH. They need to put regulators on these buses which will not allow them to go over 60 MPH.

  • Dont Know My Name

    The driver should be held responsible for his actions in the death of his Passengers on his bus. all of the buses from all casinoes fly like a bat out of hell. they all should be accountable for there actions……………………..

    • jack

      i hope you can find your name, did you try fingerprint records? or check your mail?

  • dj

    When I read the news, it seems that it happened in my poor country in southeast Asia where the law enforcement has limited equipment. It happened in New York City (the greatest city in the world !?) We have everything here to enforce the law such as nice and fully equipped police car, speed detector, etc.
    However, with all the latest technologies, 15 people still died just because of ignorance of the driver and law enforcement. SHAME…….SHAME……..SHAME!!!

  • mking8288

    First, our thoughts & prayers are with those who perished (and yet to be identified by family & friends) and others facing months of recovery & psychological trauma, including first responders.

    We travel that route (I95) between NYC and RI all the time and regular – car, bus & trucks drivers alike knew, average speed limit for vast stretch is 65 to 70 mph+ when posted limit is 55 mph and easily 75 mph+ when it’s 65 mph limit – speeding is normal and way of life for EVERYONE is make up for traffic jams and road work at night with lane closure.

    We drove back mid-day yesterday thru Conneticut and for 60 miles stretch of I-95, not a SINGLE state police marked patrol doing speed enforcement work, everyone still driving well above the speed limits. It’s a matter of time before another bus accident until traffic flow is slowed down on a regular basis, and yes, ticket them & doing rolling traffic jams.

    • JR

      Did you know that all CT. Trooper cars are unmarked except for a small sticker on the overhead light bar? They are also all gray. If cops pulled over every person driving over the speed limit, please, you have to pick the ones who are excessive and standing out. If all are doing 75, then they are not going to stop you unless you are doing something else wrong. There is only so much they can do.

  • Derek K Evans

    My heart heaves for these folks and the aftermath for their families. But sadly the world as usual is always reactive instead of being proactive in implementing certain safeguards and measures which would have possibly prevented this horrific crash.

  • Deena

    My heart goes out to the families affected by this accident. The driver should fess up: he was eilther on the phone or fell asleep. Considering the time of the accident (5:45 am) and also considering the time they left (3:45 am), I’d say there is a great probability that he feel asleep at the wheel.

    I did once and my car smashed into a guardrail and signpost and, amazingly, no one got hurt. We were extremely lucky and still get shook up when I think of it. He probably fell asleep which would explain his bus vearing off to the side.

  • Pete

    Going to Atlantic City or Mohegan Sun with the buses available, was always a big risk. The drivers are often incompetent and very arrogant, and the buses worn out wrecks on wheels. Even if the bus did 80 miles, there was never any police around, and the drivers knew it. Part of the blame goes to law enforcement and the officers who are sleeping in their cars. Once and for all, get off your fat butts and do some law enforcement for the people who pay your salary!!

  • Oh Blah Dee Blah Dah

    A degree in rocket science requires knowledge of physics and mathematics. It does not mean that one is qualified to be a licensed, safe bus driver!

  • Annie (Evadne) SmithF

    Why not wait on the results of the investigations before judging. May God be with the families who lost loved ones.

  • Rishi C.

    I would agree with Nick…In addition, having traveled that route many times and taken exit 14, Trucks and commercial vehicles drive in the far right hand lane…I dont see how a truck would have interfeared, as he claims.
    He has only been with the company for 6 months, a baby bus driver…
    Investigators are gonna track this guy, as far back as when he walked out of his Hotel Room.
    Unfortunatly whats been done cannot be corrected, besides fingers pointing at the driver, we should start looking for ways to protect passengers, ie, SeatBelts.
    I hope this Ophadell Williams ass hole gets life in jail if not Death Penalty for killing innocent people.
    My thoughts and prayers go out to the family members of those lost in this horrific accident.

  • Marina Ios

    I am really sorry for this accident, no matter whose fault was it, people are dead, is a shame
    BUT , I CANNOT HELP IT TO MENTION THIS: who is writing these articles , are these people getting paid to write them???
    First sentence of the article: the 15th victim has died… Last paragraph of article: crash that killed 14…
    is it 15 or 14????
    when you publish an article you need to make sure it is accurate, especially when the topic is a serious one.

    • morgan

      Seems accurate to me…14 killed IN the crash, the 15th died LATER as a result of the crash…maybe some people need better reading comprehension skills?

  • randyk

    This was as unlucky and as tragic a bus accident that you can have occur. My heart goes out to the passengers and their families. Questions surround the operation by the bus driver, and perhaps it will be learned later that he had fallen asleep. That being said, I blame current bus design for the tragic overturning of the bus. The tour buses of today are much too top heavy, their centers of gravity are way to high. Any deviation from a straight line at high speed and the bus is liable to roll onto its side. Buses should be able to make emergency manuvers without tipping over at highways speeds, currently they cannot. Remedy, make the buses with lower centers of gravity and wider. This won’t totally eliminate the roll over factor, but will reduce the danger from it.

    • P8nt

      Your solution merely serves as a means of protecting people from their own stupidity. A bus is not meant to maneuver like a sports car, nor are they meant to be driven in the same manner. This is why bus drivers and other truck drivers are required to have additional certification. Though, one could easily argue about the thoroughness of DMV tests.
      I do hope that later on a judgment will be made persecuting the driver and the company, and hopefully closing down the tour bus company.

  • Mr. Armenia

    Is this a record on most people dying a bus crash coming from a casino?

  • Nick

    Let’s do the math. It’s 113 miles from Mohegan Sun to I-95 Exit 14. According to Google, it should take 2 hours, 8 minutes. They left Mohegan Sun at 3:45 am and crashed at 5:30 am. So how did they make it in only 1 hour, 45 minutes. Ok, maybe Google is wrong. If you do the math, their average speed was 65 mph. That does not mean that they were speeding at the time of the crash, but it certainly looks like they were. My guess is he was speeding and either fell asleep or got distracted by a phone call.

  • pete

    How come all of the bad accidents on these interstates in this area almost always involve Chinatown buses? I wouldn’t get on those things ever.

    • JL

      awww. becasue the other bus company accidents dont make to the news like this one, not even MTA bus don’t make it to the news like this.. And for the record,this is not a Chinatown bus, Its World Wide Tour and locatied in Park slope

      • Joe

        speaking of slopes…..

  • Duh.

    Prediction: the driver was asleep at the time of the accident.

  • Mr. Armenia

    Supposedly the bus driver had a suspended license at one time and has a criminal record.

    Dont bus companies do background checks?

    • boogie

      Would you like them to have a master’s degree to drive the bus? Ex-cons (or those with criminal records) should be able to get jobs if they have done their time.

      • mari

        Depends on the crime. If it was transportation related, I would hope that they could not get a job driving.
        No one is saying you need a degree in rocket science to drive a bus. But common sense on the employers part and a background check does help.

      • Joe

        amen boogie…..what does his record have to do with anything if it wasnt related to driving in any way?

      • Mr. Armenia


        Please accept my apologies. I…I am just another 35 year old idiot living in my Mom’s basement

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