Driver In Fatal Bronx Bus Crash Pleads Not Guilty To Manslaughter Charges

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The driver of a tour bus that crashed on a Bronx highway while returning from a quick overnight trip to a casino, killing 15, pleaded not guilty to manslaughter charges Thursday.

1010 WINS’ Al Jones Reports

Ophadell Williams entered the plea in Bronx State Supreme Court. Williams was indicted on 15 counts of manslaughter in the second-degree and 15 counts of negligent homicide.

Williams is being held on $250,000 bail.

bronx bus crash Driver In Fatal Bronx Bus Crash Pleads Not Guilty To Manslaughter Charges

Emergency personnel at the scene of the fatal bus crash on March 12 (credit: AP Photo)

The World Wide Travel bus ran off Interstate 95 at daybreak on March 12 as it was returning to Chinatown from an overnight trip to the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, Conn. The crash killed 15 people, mostly Chinese men and women over the age of 40 who were regulars at casinos.

A report by the National Transportation Safety Board said the bus veered to the right, crossed the shoulder, hit a barrier and traveled 480 feet as it fell over. Then it slid into a vertical sign support that sheared through the bus at the window line.

Williams has maintained he was alert and awake, and that the crash was touched off when the towering bus was clipped by a tractor-trailer, which forced him to swerve and crash.

In the courtroom, however, Bronx Assistant District Attorney Gary Weil said “in the days prior to this crash, the defendant in his off-hours was getting very little sleep.”

“He was driving an appropriate amount of hours on-duty and when he got home, when he told investigators that he was resting and sleeping, he was out on the road.  He was not getting the sleep, he was severely sleep-deprived,” Weil said.

“He could have taken steps, which would have avoided this great tragedy,” Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson said.

Some surviving passengers who are suing Williams have alleged he was asleep. The preliminary NTSB report found that an inspection of a tractor-trailer whose driver came forward as a witness revealed no evidence of contact. The report also found that the bus was traveling 78 mph less than a minute before the crash but then slowed somewhat. The speed limit at the Bronx site is 55 mph.

The report does not cite a cause of the crash, and officials said that would be determined in the final report likely out next year.

Williams’ lawyer, Sean Rooney, has disputed the passengers’ accounts, saying that Williams was rested and had swerved to avoid the tractor-trailer.

“He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t even smoke. He takes his job very seriously and he was alert, and is a great driver,” Rooney said.

He said police tested the driver’s breath and blood for alcohol, and the tests were negative. Police have not confirmed that.

State police said soon after the crash that witnesses reported the driver had been speeding. And state officials say they have evidence of false statements from Williams.

Williams was convicted of crimes using two aliases, state officials say. He served just more than two years for manslaughter for his role in a stabbing in 1990, according to state corrections records. He also served about three years, from 1998 to the middle of 2002, for grand larceny for removing an $83,905 check from a Police Athletic League fund.

He also was arrested by New York City police on June 4, 2003, for driving with a suspended license and for possession of three police radios. In 1987, he was arrested on charges of trying to get on public transportation without paying.

Rooney said Williams had tried to put his criminal past behind him and was dedicated to being a good driver.

“He redeemed himself for his mistakes made years ago,” Rooney said. “His life was straight. He was doing well until this horrible accident.”

Do you agree with the indictment against Ophadell Williams? Sound off in our comments section below…

(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.)

  • Surfin Bird

    It is bad enough that he is being charged and its due to his skin color.

    • LG

      Shut up already

    • Meagan

      @ birdbrain, I doubt you would make such a stupid statement if any of your pigeons were aboard that bus. His skin color or race has absolutely nothing to do with his irregard for human life. He apparently was either driving reckless at a very high speed and fell asleep or was under the influence of stupidity. People regardless of race always look for something to justify their dumb behavior. Why would he plead not guilty to an incident that he knows he was 100% at fault for. BIRDBRAIN, APPARENTLY YOU HAVE BEGAN YOUR WEEKEND EARLY, TRY TO BACK AWAY FROM THE BOTTLE/PIPE BECAUSE IT IS EVIDENTLY OBSTRUCTING YOUR MENTAL CAPACITY.

      • Theresa G.

        Hi Meagan,



  • nyckat

    He was a driver for a casino..lets look at how many sucessful trips he took before the accident! Forget his past, everyone deserves a chance to work and bring them selves out of a bad lifestyle!! His main problem is, like MANY of us was speeding, sadly this may bring him more jail time. I hope the judge looks at the facts- he pulled people from the bus- he didn’t hide behind railings to protect himself- he did what he could do to help those on his bus. We will never know the truth about the tractor/trailer, speeding was wrong, and may have caused the wreck- but jeeze how many of us speed daily- 78 is pretty much the norm where he was!!! glad I don’t have to sit on this jury!
    Prayers go to all the families involved- drivers included..and for the race record, I am white raised by very prejudice parents! This has nothing to do with black/white asian..sad situation for all involved

    • eRICg

      Too many mistakes he has made. He is a f*&^k up.

    • Theresa G.


      i don’t drink, but i will take a drink on your response!

  • atri11ion

    Peoples lives are at stake. We have technology that can put a live cam in that drivers face to watch if he falls asleep with a remotely located rent-a-cop. I think the person who failed is the owner that hired the driver and failed to secure those peoples safety.

    • danny h

      This is so true about having the technology available, however if installed company’s would be held liable to many law suits because they would not be able to blame the drivers.I heard that many insurance company’s wouldn’t insure with this type of safty equipment. Being able to deny fault is what they want

    • Theresa G.

      i fully agree. the company itself should not have hired him. i feel it yes it probably was his fault but it was also the company’s fault. the company should not of hired him with his past record. when people lives are at stake and one knows he had past driving issues, they should not have hired him for that position. yes, he needs a second chance, but not behind a wheel but behind a desk instead.

      he has to live with this for the rest of his life. i hope he can live with himself.
      my suggestion is to him, he better take sleeping pills to get himself to sleep, cause, he will certainly have nightmares over this.

  • danny h

    There is still just too much information being left out of this article. For instance what time in the early morning did he start his trip. How long was he awake. Can his company produce hotel receipts for his supposedly being rested.Why are truck drivers so healvily regulated for hours of operation and bus drivers are not. Have you noticed there are no sleeper births on tour buses? I belive his criminal record was in his past, and really has no bearing on what happened. He seemed to be living straight. Don’t judge the man until everything is known. So many questions?

    • Terri

      Hi Danny,


      As the old saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover. After all, the man, did the right thing, he stayed – i might feel differently had he left the scene, but he had morals and felt compassion to the people and he stayed.

      • joey from B'hurst

        He had to stay. Were was he going to run to?


    The way I see it. If Casey Anthony walked, ANYONE CAN!

  • Frank Pierre

    that name Ophadell is criminal.. anyone with a name like that should be arrested…

    • Theresa G.

      that statement really is uncalled for. a persons name has no baring on their actions.

      anyone, including a person with a name such as FRANK PIERRE can also get arrested…

      perhaps you should of graduated school. think before you say derogatory things about others and look at yourself.

  • Bob

    Well at least he did not leave the scene of a accident.. That really is a plus in N.Y.

    • Terrie S

      i agree with you. he had the courtesy and smarts to stay there. i give him a lot credit.

      i don;t think he deliberately caused this accident, but it was an accident and until it can be proven it was his fault entirely, one should not make any bad comment at all.
      i am not saying you said anything bad, but reading other peoples comments were uncalled for.

      • danny h

        I agree also. ” let he who is without sin cast the first stone” Stop judging people!

  • Bizzy

    I personally insist on ONLY being driven by convicted embezzling, knife-wielding, non-bus paying, Man-slaughtering, alias name-using, police radio-stealing, speeding, lying guy.
    After all – “he doesn’t even drink”

  • Topspin

    You’re an idiot. Not every black person lives in the ghetto so therefore there is no need for every black person to get out of it. In addition you say ” every black person I know..” which implies you must live in the ghetto since those are the only people you know. You need to perhaps move up in your socio-economic class so that you can meet black people who are hard working intelligent professionals like myself . I don;t judge every white person based on the actions of a white person that does something wrong.

    • danny h

      well said.

  • Ray

    This man, regardless of his color, has a criminal history and is now responsible for the deaths of 15 people. It would be absolutely ridiculous NOT to indict him for manslaughter.

    • joey from B'hurst

      He served his time [in jail] and is now ‘corrected.” You need proof of his present negligence, not some kid’s stuff from his past.

      • Ray

        He was SPEEDING, lost control, and killed 15 people. He should be indicted.

  • Nick

    Le’ts not beat our drums here. Ever heard of Timothy McVeigh? No? How about Dr. Kavorkian? I’m white btw. It would be wise to keep the race out of this.

  • Hans Glogauer

    Hateful racism. The man may not be a lovable character, but why always harp on a person’s color? Haven’t we learned anything over the last hundred years? – OK, fifty years.

  • Dee Dee

    Yoo-hoo, Mrs. Ophadell Williams! Johnny Ramone called – he’d like his hair back.

    • chip


    • Babba Booey

      Hey Ho Let’s Go Ho! lol

  • Leonard

    If you want to bring up the fact that he was negligent and he fell asleep then fine. But I think it’s unfair to bring up his race or his criminal record, both of which are IRRELEVANT. Whenever a black man is charged with a crime, I always see about a dozen bigoted comments.

    • jon

      Hey Leonard, you’re an idiot. You’re the only one that brough up race here.

      People lost their lives, have some respect, stop turing everything into a pitty party.

    • ak66

      I may agree about the race , but criminal record – excuse me! I’m sure if passengers knew about his criminal record, they would wait for the next bus.

      • about time justice

        Plus his license was under a differant name so yes his criminal record matters a– wipe.

    • Wake Up

      Nonsense. Read your statistice. Which race falls asleep most behind the wheel? Which race falls asleep on the job most?
      Surely you jest ! ! !

  • William Alderman

    I don’t belive he is being targeted because of his rase! However I DO believe his past has a lot to do with this, for if it WASN’T this article wouldb’rt be so FULL of his past actions. So YES hios past has come back to haunt him. It always doese in the court system. Wathc how high his bail will be, compared to if he didn’t have a past.

    • Mrs. Pembroke

      I predict his bail will be higher than your final grade in English class.

      • J

        Haha! Good one, Mrs. Pembroke.

  • Tom

    Why do I suspect that the bus company itself was not subject to the same level of scrutiny as to criminal culpability?

  • bday55

    Well the article did say he might have been speeding and he might have fallen asleep at the wheel. I don’t think race has anything to do with it.

    Now if he was Asian, that’s a different story all together.

    • R.

      Well it wasn’t an asian that caused this accident.

  • jbrutal


  • Surfin Bird

    He is being charged with mansalughter because of his skin color and his criminal past.

    Totally wrong.

    • R.

      Oh god here we go with the race card holders.

    • Paul

      There are a lot of racist White people, but most of them don’t defend White criminals based on their “skin color.” In fact, they hate White criminals as much as they hate everyone else. This guy was in an accident that killed a lot of folks, mostly people of color (Asians), and he was speeding. Of course they are going to charge him. Anyone without juice would go to trial for this, innocent or not, and yes, a history of crime follows you throughout life. It is one of the social consequences of getting convicted. A manslaughter conviction only got this guy two years the last time. People get more time than that for cheating on their income tax, unless they’re politicians.

    • john

      the only person who brought up race was you. he was being charged because he was “in control” of a vehicle that killed FIFTEEN PEOPLE. stop crying racism every chance you get. ignorant people are the death of society. u wanna be equal and be treated equally? STOP BRINGING UP RACISM EVERY CHANCE YOU GET!

      • Smurfin' Bird

        Now you bein’ racist!

      • Cathy Lee

        listen john, people are stupid. they have nothing better to do with themselves but cause more trouble between people. in the long run, they are the “AH’s” that look stupid. it does not matter whether a person is of color or being caucasion, it can happen yes HAPPEN TO ANYONE, WHITE, BLACK, HISPANIC OR OTHERWISE, no one is perfect. it just comes to show us, who needs to be re-educated and go back to school. it does not make a person bad because they are of color. hey, a lot of people of color has more brains in their pinky then some whites.

    • steev

      youre an idiot surfin.

    • Nec

      True, it was only an accident. It’s not like he ran from the scene like the other guy in SI a couple of days ago.

      • NYC GUY

        He’s an animal. Who else would be speeding and fall asleep at the wheet? Stop denying it. Blacks are feral animals. They can NEVER be domesticated.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Giving Tuesday
Charles Osgood Event

Listen Live