Prosecutors Say Ophadell Williams Drove Recklessly; He Calls It An Accident

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It was a dramatic day at the trial of the bus driver accused of manslaughter in a deadly crash that killed 15 passengers last year in New York.

On Thursday, the most severely injured survivor took the stand.

Ren Yao, 63, lost both of his arms when the tour bus, driven by Ophadell Williams, headed from Mohegan Sun Casino to Chinatown and crashed on I-95 in the Bronx.

Yao, through a translator, described the crash.

“I just felt like everything was coming over me and the person who was sitting next to me just disappeared and I couldn’t say anything. I was just sitting there, waiting for someone to come rescue me,” Yao said.

The bus overturned and slammed into a poll. The impact of the crash peeled off the roof of the bus, killing 15 passengers and injuring 18 more.

It is the third week of Williams’ trial on manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges, CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu reported.

Prosecutors said he had been driving recklessly and may have fallen asleep.

Calling it “one of the deadliest” crashes ever investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board, federal officials earlier this year said driver fatigue was the cause of the crash.

In a unanimous vote in June, the five-member NTSB board said bus driver Williams had almost no sleep in the days leading up the March 12, 2011, crash, saying he only took naps on the bus while passengers were gambling inside the casino.

The NTSB also said the bus company, World Wide Tours, was to blame for not providing sufficient safety oversight.

The defense claimed what caused the crash was a tractor-trailer that cut Williams off. Williams said it was an accident and that the case belonged in civil court.

“We can’t deny, he had a tragic, tragic injury. He lost both his arms again. Does it mean that my client is responsible? No,” Defense Attorney Patrick Bruno, said referring to Yao’s testimony.

“If he has any responsibility — and emphasize if it’s something to get settled with money, not with going to jail,” added Bruno.

Florence Wong, whose father died in the crash, comes to court every day and said she’ll wait until the end of the trial before she decides who’s responsible for the loss of so many.

“I’m here for my father and see nobody represent him. So I just want to be here to hear the facts,” Wong said.

If convicted, Williams couldget up to 15 years in prison.

The prosecutor said the trial is expected to wrap up by Thanksgiving.

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