NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Residents of the West Village were woken up Wednesday morning by a high-impact accident, in which a stolen truck slammed into a city bus, which in turn smashed into scaffolding in front of a building and left a bus driver dead.
The crash happened around 5:30 a.m. on 14th Street and Seventh Avenue, police said. The articulated crosstown M14 bus was headed east on 14th Street when the box truck traveling south on Seventh Avenue ran a red light and broadsided it, police said.
“It was a long screeching; it sounded like a dumpster coming off a truck or something,” said witness Dennis Gallagher.
The impact was so strong, it sent both vehicles crashing into a building and several parked cars. The scaffolding that was in front of the building collapsed onto the wreckage.
The bus driver, William Pena, was killed in the crash.
“So we all ran up there and this is — look at the scene,” said Metropolitan Transportation Authority employee and witness Steve Migano.
Pena, 49, of Hillside, N.J., was ejected from the bus. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Sources told CBS 2 Pena was not wearing a seat belt at the time.
When the bus hit the scaffolding, coffee cart operator Ashraf Marei was also injured. A pedestrian and a passenger on the bus also suffered injuries, CBS 2’s John Slattery reported.
“Cops and firemen were coming, and they looking under the bus; scrambling under the bus,” Gallagher said. “I heard the coffee guy screaming and yelling. I think he was in shock. I don’t think he got hit, but he barely made it; barely made it out of there.”
The 18 Rabbits Granola truck had been on 16th street, with the engine running, when it was stolen. A police source identified the suspect driver as Domonic Whilby, 22, of Griffin, Ga.
Minutes later, police responded to the stolen truck report and came upon the accident two blocks away.
“Crazy bizarre,” witness Luis Maisonet told CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown. “People are going to work and this happens. Unbelievable.”
The suspect was found unconscious in the truck, and hospitalized.
As CBS 2’s Don Champion reported, family members of the 17-year bus veteran were seen going to his Midtown bus depot, where he was remembered by fellow workers and relatives — including his brother, Alex.
“He was a great guy. He wasn’t a guy – no trouble no nothing,” Alex Pena said. “He was a great guy, every way you can put it.”
“He was a very kind person to all of us,” added fellow MTA bus driver Steve Pierre. “We’re all saddened and we’re all hurt right now.”
Bus operators said they were shaken up by the accident.
“We know it can happen but when you actually witness it happening, it becomes a different reality,” said operator Anthony Flores.
Family members were grateful for the turnout to remember Pena.
“Everybody is a huge family,” said Pena’s cousin, Ivelisse Johnson. “Our family is big already, and then to meet all these MTA co-workers — they were in there crying with us.”
Pena was a 17-year veteran of MTA New York City Transit and was the first bus operator killed in a collision in more than 14 years, the MTA said.
“The entire MTA mourns the tragic loss of Mr. Pena, especially his colleagues at the Michael J. Quill Bus Depot in Manhattan,” MTA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Thomas F. Prendergast said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Pena’s family, and we are working closely with law enforcement to ensure the perpetrator of this crime is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The safety of our customers and our employees remains our most important priority.”
Pena is survived by his wife and his teenage daughter.
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