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Probe Of Fatal Crash Of New York City-Bound Tour Bus Looks At Speed, Timing

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Workers evaluate the scene where a tractor-trailer crashed into a tour bus carrying about 50 people on the New York State Thruway in Waterloo, N.Y., Friday, July 22, 2011. (credit: David Duprey/AP)

Workers evaluate the scene where a tractor-trailer crashed into a tour bus carrying about 50 people on the New York State Thruway in Waterloo, N.Y., Friday, July 22, 2011. (credit: David Duprey/AP)

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WATERLOO, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) – An investigation into a fiery crash between a tractor-trailer and a tour bus that killed the truck driver and injured at least 30 passengers on the bus will focus on just where the bus was when it was hit and how fast it was going, police say.

The New York City-bound Farr’s Coach Lines bus was pulling back onto the highway when it was hit in the rear by a tractor-trailer on Interstate 90 near Waterloo at around 1:30 a.m. Friday. Both vehicles burst into flames.

The driver of the tractor-trailer, 59-year-old Timothy Hume, died in the crash. The tour bus was carrying 52 people.

State police said it was unclear how soon the bus was hit after it pulled into the driving lane. They said the bus had its emergency flashers on.

“It probably wasn’t up to speed,” Trooper Mark O’Donnell said. “That’s what we’re looking at right now. We’re not sure if the bus was totally in the right lane or in the shoulder.”

When the accident happened, Sgt. Jacob Perkins, a quick-thinking soldier from nearby Fort Drum who had started his leave only 90 minutes earlier, pulled off and ran into the burning bus several times to help rescue passengers.

The driver of the bus, Rene Bisson from Ontario, was ticketed because police said his license had been suspended in New York state. Police said he has a valid license in Canada, but his New York license was suspended over two earlier speeding tickets, one in 2003 and one in 2006.

Police said Bisson, 52, neglected to file paperwork to get his license reinstated after paying the speeding fines.

Dan Ronan, a spokesman for the American Bus Association said the company had a “satisfactory” rating, the top of three grades, in its latest federal safety inspection in 2007.

Of the truck driver who was killed, Matt Hare, spokesman for the truck’s operator Matrix Expedited Services, said: “Tim was an upstanding professional driver with a great safety record. Our concerns and prayers go out to his family and all the passengers on the tour bus.”

This is the latest of several fatal tour bus crashes this year. Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety says 32 people have been killed and 323 injured in tour bus crashes so far in 2011.

In March, 15 people were killed in the Bronx when a tour bus headed to Chinatown from a casino in Connecticut overturned and slammed into a poll, peeling off its roof. 

Four people were killed in May when a Sky Express operated bus returning to Chinatown from North Carolina swerved off the road and overturned on I-95 in Virginia. 

The driver of that bus, 37-year-old Kin Yiu Cheung, is charged with four felony counts of involuntary manslaughter and reckless driving. He has pleaded not guilty.

Then in June, police said a bus carrying tourists headed to Flushing, Queens, rear-ended a flatbed tractor-trailer on the Pennsylvania Turnpike killing the bus driver and injuring nearly two dozen passengers.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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