Police Interviewing Bus Driver, Who May Have Been Driving At 'High Rate Of Speed'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Police say witnesses have told investigators that the driver of a tour bus that crashed on the outskirts of New York City and killed 14 people was driving at a “high rate of speed.”

State Police Major Michael Kopy says authorities are interviewing the driver and are conducting the investigation as if it were a criminal matter. No one has been charged.

The bus, returning from a Connecticut casino Saturday, scraped along a guard rail, tipped on its side and slammed into a pole along Interstate 95.

The bus had just reached the outskirts of New York City on a journey from the Mohegan Sun casino when the crash happened. The driver told police he lost control trying to avoid a swerving tractor-trailer.

At least thirteen people died when the bus, returning to New York from a casino in Connecticut, flipped onto its side and was sliced in half by the support pole for a large sign. (AP Photo/David Karp)

As many as 20 of the estimated 31 passengers were treated at area hospitals, including St. Barnabas Hospital and Jacobi Medical Center. Several were in critical condition, according to police.

“There were a number of people at the scene, deceased at the scene, there was debris spread throughout the scene,” New York State Police Major Michael Kopy told CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown. “It is difficult, at this point, identifying the subjects.”

WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall heard from doctors at St. Barnabas who said passengers had been treated for a number of injuries, including skull fractures, rib fractures, internal bleeding, pulmonary contusions and internal bruising to the chest cavity.

The bus began swerving, toppled and crashed into the support post for a highway sign indicating the exit for the Hutchinson Parkway.  The stanchion entered through the front window, then sheared the bus from front to back along the window line, cutting like a knife through the seating area and peeling the roof off all the way to the back tires.

Capt. Matthew Galvin of the NYPD’s Emergency Service Unit was one of the first rescuers on the scene. He said when officers clambered into the wreckage, they found “bodies everywhere.”

“People were moaning and screaming for help,” he said. Some of the dead were tangled up with the living.”

The bus driver, 40-year-old Ophadel Williams of Brooklyn, told investigators that he lost control when a tractor trailer veered into his lane and he swerved to miss it.

That driver didn’t stop, but police said they are interviewing a truck driver they suspect may have been involved, and they’ve hauled in a tractor trailer for an examination.

“We’re conducting at this point as if, in fact, it is a criminal investigation,” Major Kopy said. “That said, it is in the infant stages of the investigation.”

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the bus was in the center lane and the truck was in the left lane at the time of the accident.

“The truck either starts to swerve or perhaps even hits the bus. We’re not certain at this time,” he said.

The bus, operated by the Brooklyn-based charter company World Wide Tours, was headed to Chinatown returning from the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, Conn. The bus had two stops in Lower Manhattan: 30 Bowery and the Allen/Delancey intersection.

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In response to the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board has launched an investigation team to look into the crash. State police, however, will be leading the investigation and the safety board will advise.

World Wide Travels released a statement on Saturday afternoon, declaring its full cooperation in the investigation and extended its sympathies to the families of those who were killed in the accident.

Fourteen people died Saturday when a bus returning from a casino flipped onto its side on I-95 in the Bronx and was sliced in half by the support pole for a large sign, authorities said. (Credit: CBS 2)

“We are a family owned company and realize words cannot begin to express our sorrow to the families of those who lost their lives or were injured in this tragic accident. Our thoughts and prayers are with them,” the release stated.

Over the past two years, World Wide Travel has undergone 26 inspections by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. It was cited five times for fatigued driving, and in the last 24 months it has had two accidents involving injuries.

The National Transportation Safety Board is spearheading the investigation into Saturday’s crash.

“That’s one of the things our investigators will be looking at – that’s one of the reasons we will be talking to the bus company,” NTSB Vice Chairman Christopher Hart said. “Our role here is not just to figure out what happened, but try to find out why it happened.”

Iinvestigators believe surveillance cameras inside the bus were rolling at the time of the crash, but they’re still working to analyze them. In the meantime, they are asking any witnesses to call state police.

Traffic was closed on the northbound side of the highway after the crash, but was moving again by mid-morning. The southbound side of the highway was cleared and reopened Saturday night.

Limo driver Homer Martinez, 56, of Danbury, Conn. happened on the scene just moments after the wreck and saw other drivers sprinting from their cars to see if they could assist the injured. He said they were horrified by what they found.

“People were saying, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God,’ holding their hands on their heads,” Martinez said. “I saw people telling other people not to go there, ‘You don’t want to see this.”‘

More than 60 firefighters and medics were on the scene quickly, running to the vehicle with bags and stretchers, he said.

“I see a lot of accidents. I’ve even seen accidents happen. But I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Martinez.

For family members seeking more information on the crash, the City asks that the public calls 311.

(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.)

Comments (93)
  1. Herb says:

    I drive truck, and I always see tour buses in the left lane and speeding. These guys are on a tight schedule but it’s no excuse to drive like this.
    Also the police tend to look the other way when it’s a BUS in the left lane, which is illegal.

  2. ASDF says:


  3. Bus Rider says:

    I wonder if there was the aluminum break away highway poles most new installations use, how much less severe the outcome would be. I have to believe these break away poles are life savers and would have significantly reduced the number of fatalities.

    1. mak says:

      I heard on a news report that the reason these particular poles are not ‘break aways’ is because they are holding up those exit signs. Those signs and the corresponding structures crashing down in the event of an accident would kill people too.

      1. Bus Rider says:

        Good point Mak. I did not think about that. Thanks

  4. Bus Rider says:

    Being a life long NYC Metro resident I cannot recall a crash with more fatalities. I have not seen any reference yet to this being the worst accident in NYC history.. Do any of you folks remember a crash with 15 or more fatalities?

  5. Vienna Joe says:

    May the folks who were killed in this incident rest in peace … condolences to their family and friends. A speedy and full recovery to all those who were injured. Kudos to F.D.N.Y. and N.Y.P.D. for rapidly responding and professionally handling the incident.

  6. pete says:

    What the hell is a truck that size doing in the LEFT lane?? That is the worst lane for it to be.

  7. justice4dogs says:

    As a former New Yorker whose husband is Chinese I’ve heard a lot of stories about how reckless some of these Chinatown bus drivers and once witnessed it for myself when I was on one of a Chinatown shuttle bus going from Manhattan to Queens. The driver let a woman passenger on even though the bus was packed and pulled out a folding chair for her to sit on right in the aisle next to the entrance. Then he proceeded to speed and weave recklessly all the way to our destination. All I could think about was how if he made a sudden stop she’d go flying through the windshield.

    1. justice4dogs isaRACIST says:

      The World Wide Tours BUS DRIVER is OFERDEL WILLIAMS and clearly, he is NOT CHINESE. The chinese bus companies are much better and did not GET ANYBODY KILLED.

      1. lanjt says:

        she is not being a racist! what she said is exactly true. that is exactly what goes on on these buses. i’ve been on one of it.

        the driver drives like a mad person, speeding and cutting every car.
        he does not care about his own life or people on it

      2. justice4dogs says:

        I never said the bus drivers were Chinese. I said my husband is Chinese (does that make me racist?) and having lived in Chinatown and therefore having had much firsthand experience, told me me stories of how reckless the bus drivers were. Nowhere does it mention the race of the driver or bus owner. Some may be owned by Chinese and some not. Read carefully before you make such serious accusations. Besides you don’t know if I’m white, black, or latino, so stop playing the race card.

  8. Eric G says:

    Terrorist idiot. Go away!!!!

  9. Daniel N says:

    Always “blame” someone else or always blame the “truck” unreal……

    1. Steve PCNY says:

      theirs no one to blame it on only the speed racers. i got cut off by one of these crazy bus tour drivers on the Connecticut i95 just to get their faster. you bus drivers remember your taking lives on you drive more slower and get enough sleep to hit the roads this goes as well for the truck drivers. your bus is not a sedan is a very big vehicle that could kill or injured someone. top it off your speed limit is 50MPH; just like the ones for staples trucks they have it posted on the back of their doors “60 MPH is set to” so i think they should the same for the tour buses

  10. NP says:

    Most people drive way too fast, and way overestimate their driving skill. And most people completely ignore the most important rule on the road…STAY AWAY FROM OTHER VEHICLES. Make sure you always have hundreds of feet of space between you and any other vehicle. I’ve been on bus rides that gave me grey hair, the driving was so terrifying. Tailgating, speeding, you name it. Bus drivers are among the craziest on the road.

    1. Wow says:

      Are you ret@rded? I agree that there are a lot of reckless bus drivers but “HUNDREDS of feet of space between you and any other vehicle” in New York City during the morning commute? I have a feeling you’re one of those idiots driving half the speed limit and swinging turns like your sedan is a cruise ship—which is just as dangerous as the speeders.

  11. Joseph O says:

    It is clear that the bus driver over corrected. A tractor trailer side swipping a buss that side should not overturn it, if the driver of the buss did not make an unsafe condition a dangerous one by adding to the force in an atempt to steer away from it.
    Now you know why the aviation transport companies prefare to high airforce pilots who have a lot of practice creating dangerous moves with airplanes and correcting it safely. It is time we train drivers in the same way.
    Has anyone asked, why the sign post did not have adequate protection around its base to deflect the impact.as designed.

    1. Wesley Jacobs says:

      There is an huge difference between hiring an airline pilot and a commercial bus driver. For stater let me start off with the main similarities; both I repeat BOTH of these professions require you to have massive amounts of school training as well as on the job experience. Secondly, don’t make pilots out to be perfect even your highly trained pilots in the Air Force make mistakes and have accidents. Trust me aircraft accidents are WAY more devastating than auto accidents

      Check your facts, I’m just sayin’

    2. Herb says:

      You want to train drivers to learn how to drive in Dangerous situations? Just send them through the cross bronx or Brooklyn Queens expressway . Two of the most dangerous roads I know of.
      And by the way, The airlines hire ex-military pilots because they stay calm and collected under pressure, like Sully Sullenberger, remember him?

  12. lulu says:

    Europe is way ahead of us when it comes to weighing tractor trailors using road sensors and overhead cameras to monitor traffic..

  13. karen s says:

    well said bob f. apparently the westboro baptist “church” congregants don’t have any military funeral to attempt to interrupt today.

  14. Bob Fowler says:

    In response to the pseuo-csi’s

    Again, what difference does it make in your lives, the cause of this tragedy? Is there not one of you mean-spirited people has anything except maliciousness to add to this story? People DIED, and you all want to be able to claim the title of the meanest SOB to post something?

    Apparently the true horror of this crash isn’t those who died, but those who were left to continue spewing hate. Get lives!!!!

    1. Boris Svirsky says:

      Amen to you brother. its a horrible tragedy. I feel the pain of the loved ones having to live with this grief. lesson learned move away from NYC. my mother and brother were hit by a bus in october, my brother died on impact. safe driving is always better than reckless time saving. I will never ever drive on a bus ever again, the force is just to strong in movement.

    2. badman says:

      I wish this would stick, Bob, but I don’t have much hope. Anybody that posts this kind of vitriol in a tragic situation like this is a self-hater. They won’t change.

  15. Blackbird says:

    For several years I worked for World Wide Tours before I relocated to another state, and I know they run a tight ship. Their buses are top shelf with an excellent NYSDOT 19A Inspection record. The Safety administrator Chris, a NYPD Officer, does a great job at keeping drivers and fleet legal and in compliance.
    To Mark, Mike, Jenn, Chris and all the fine drivers there, my thoughts are with you.
    To the victims, their friends and family of this event, hold onto your faith and stay strong.

  16. karen s says:

    this is an incredible tragedy. my sympathies to the families of the the victims, and those hospitalized. i do hope they are able to find the trucker responsible for initiating the accident and file charges.

  17. Ellen says:

    My condolences goes out to the families of this tragic accident.

  18. reality check says:

    Right, because Europe is in such fine shape. From Greece (bankrupt) to France (nearly bankrupt) you’re a real model of success. If it weren’t for America you’d be speaking German, genius..

    Tell the group how many European graveyards are filled with American soldiers who died for your right to flaunt your ignorance.

  19. drewbot says:

    stay in Canada please

  20. mak says:

    From the NY Times website:

    “…Trying to reconstruct what happened, investigators said the bus was apparently in the right hand lane and the truck was in the center lane, passing the bus. At the rear of the tractor-trailer was a step, on the right hand side, and the driver said he believed the step clipped his front bumper. Investigators said, however, that in swerving to avoid the back step the driver might have inadvertently initiated the accident, swerving, then striking a guard rail, flipping over and slamming into the stanchion. “

  21. mike barone says:

    now the driver says that he swerved to avoid a truck,…story changed

    1. mak says:

      Or maybe the initial reporting of what the driver reported to the police was incorrect. News reporters have been known to jump the gun.

  22. a driver says:

    @someone..your dad is right. It is also a blind curve section. If you don’t know that part of the NE, it is dangerous. During the weekday AM and PM rush hours , in the same area. a county police car is parked on the northbound meridian turnabout, keeping an eye out for speeders.

  23. Bus Rider says:

    First, my heart goes out to those on the bus and their families (including the driver). What happened to innocent until proven guilty. The driver may have been clipped or swerved to get out of the way of an aggressive truck driver. These are top heavy and don’t have the same recovery ability (similar to the SUV vs. car issue, but more so). It may be that the driver did nothing wrong and will have to live with this memory the rest of his (or her) life. Something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

    I ride this company’s busses regularly. They have many excellent drivers and I wouldn’t assume that it’s an issue of a driver who wasn’t properly trained or falling asleep, or drugs. It may very well have been an overly aggressive tractor-trailer driver who the driver was trying to avoid getting hit by (or was hit by). At some point even the best drivers can only do so much.

    Let the various groups do their investigation and job, but don’t assume that the driver was a fault or that the company isn’t following proper protocol. Let’s instead think of those who died and send good wishes to those who are injured and all the families.

  24. frances says:

    May god bless all who were involved in the accident

  25. someone says:

    my dad told me that the part of the highway where the accident took place is a little bit of a steep hill and people speed a lot in that area.

  26. Non Believer says:

    Supposedly the bus was clipped from behind by a tractor trailer. Why then, is the back of the bus undamaged? Look at pictures posted elsewhere.

  27. margaret says:

    People lost their lives this morning; why are you concentrating on blame? Sometimes bad things happen to good people; and there is no explanation. Stop being so negative and focus your anger on things that you can actually change.

  28. a driver says:

    I am sure the NYPD and NYS troopers will conduct a thorough investigation such as drug and alcohol testing on the driver, reviewing highway traffic cameras, and also checking the surveilance cameras at the casino. I also concur with an earlier statement made about lack of sleep being a factor.

  29. arthur says:

    Tractor/trailer’s and buses should be made to stay on the right lane at all times,i have seen for my self how the drivers are in and out of lanes all the time.this has ,t0 be stopped.the police have a job to do to keep them in line..

  30. Spoiled yapping dog says:

    Why are even squeaking about seatbelts?!! The bus was by all means sliced thru BELOW the window line to the back tires! Anybody still buckled up was more or less bisected, or decapitated. I pray for those lost souls on that bus, and the devils vengeance on that truck driver who had no heart to stop, at least..

  31. Hanna says:

    I am very familiar with the Exit 14 ramp to get to the Hutch. It is a very sharp exit and very sudden. Driving a small vehicle and being well alert, you need to know what you are doing. From what I am reading, the driver must have dozed off and realize it was his exit at the last second and therefor he hit hit the sign and the rest is history.

    1. Valerie says:

      The article doesn’t say he was turning onto the exit, it says it’s the pole holding up the exit sign to the Hutch that came thru the bus. I thought the Hutch doesn’t have commercial vehicles anyway…

  32. MIKE says:


    1. Daniel N says:

      Mike your an idiot. Your the type of driver who has no respect for others and sneaks in a text or two while your driving right? Anyway the bus driver was probably not paying attention talking to a passenger or on the phone and a TT drove around him because he was driving unsafely and at the last minute realized and jerked the wheel and the top heavy bus went over on its side. It just so happend to be that the bus hit the pole that holds up the highway sign and cut the roof open and cause a major catastrophe. Mike get behind the wheel of a 120,000lb truck and see what life is like behind the wheel dummy.

  33. chris says:

    May God Bless all that were involved including family that have lost loved ones. It is a shame that these things happen. You know bus and truck drivers drive like this all the time. They think just because their vehicle is bigger than yours that they have the inate right to bully you out of the way. Whether there was a truck or not something has to be done to stop these guys from driving like maniacs.

  34. Arn says:


  35. jerry says:

    Ok Bob let’s get a littler perspective here. the “Report states” is not a report ..It’s the bus driver saying something. If I was the bus driver I’d be stateing “Mystery tractor trailer” too.You ever watch these bus drivers? They travel in the left lane which is clearly prohibited. I get bus drivers on my ass everyday with high beams on. I think this is too intimadate everyone into going faster or getting out of their way. By putting on a turn signal they automatically think they can just move over on anyone expecting that people will just brake to let them in…..never thinking of the consequences that would occour to vehicles behind. I’m more inclinded to think that after a day at the casinos the driver didn’t get enough rest if any at all and dosed off.Between the hours of 3am & 5am are the most prominant times for people to fall asleep at the wheel. Oh and one more thing, if the bus was hit that hard from the rear to cause him to lose control the radiator of the “mystery” truck would wouldn’t have servived and the driver would most likely have jack-knifed.

  36. a driver says:

    My condolences to those who have lost a loved one.

    I am suspecting that for an accident at 5:30 am on a Saturday morning, speed played a factor. As someone stated earlier about the tractor trailer drivers, they will ride your rear fender if you are not going fast enough.

    Very saddened.

  37. mike barone says:

    I drive a tractor trailer, And if i hit a 40,00lbs bus hard enought to cause it to lose control,..my truck would be disabled,.bumpers and grills are not much stronger then on any other vehicle,..hoods are fiberglass,..eveodence would be on the highway,…sounds like speed and sleep?….how many of these china town bus’s wrecked on the garden state parkway in recent years,…driver error

    1. mike barone says:

      I know, “evidence”..

    2. Jerry says:

      I’m with you mike. The “mystery T/T is just a scape goat. The 1st. thing I thought of when I heard about this.

    3. ceeli says:

      blaming a *truck cut me off* is like saying an assailant was *a black guy*… an easy out for a cover up. sounds like the bus driver was the reckless one, driving tired and speeding.

  38. betsy says:

    Bus was headed back to Chinatown, where it seems most buses involved in fatal NE bus accidents are based. I am initially skeptical about this “mystery tractor trailer” – many of these Chinatown bus drivers drive like they’re still in the 3rd world and mystery vehicles are the standard excuse when people like this crash. My prediction, knowing the NYPD and their standards when it comes to accident investigation, is that nobody will be charged.

    1. Rick says:

      Dear Betsy,

      Please read Bob Fowler’s comments below … and oh, yeah, get a life.

    2. pete says:


      “State police, however, will be leading the investigation”

  39. Paul Mazz says:

    Such a tragedy…….Thoughts& Prayers to all victims and family.

  40. yvette says:

    My condolences go out to each family member that lost a loved one, plus all who were involved in this horrific accident. As soon as I heard the news I felt the pain. I do not wish to ever have to go thru something like this in my life. Stay strong.

  41. Bob Fowler says:

    It used to shock me, but I have learned not to expect anything more from many commenters, people died, and many focus on defending situations that they have no factual knowledge of. Who of you witnessed the accident? Yet so many infer facts into this.

    Who cares what is ‘common’ driving practice in this location? The report clearly states that a tractor trailer clipped the bus, failed to stop, and caused the bus to crash. I have driven a bus. What would you have the driver do? Pull fairy dust from his pocket to regain control? It is a bus, not expecting to be hit from the rear by a truck. Do many of you drive wondering who will be dropping a plane on the road where you are driving?

    Try a bit of focus! People DIED!!! Stop pontificating stupidity!!!

    1. Rick says:

      Right on target — thank you for pointing out what is truly important.

      I myself passed by the scene around 5:45 this morning — after everything stopped moving and before anyone stopped to help. I actually thought it was a wreck left there from sometime earlier…couldn’t tell in the dark.

      My prayers go out to the victims and their loved ones.

  42. carmen says:

    the bus driver makes 32 there are 31 passengers

  43. Pete Bucky says:

    Daniel….Someone reported the bus was clipped by a tractor-trailer. So much for YOUR theory. There probably are more lousy car drivers than tractor-trailer drivers, but I’ve had my rear end hugged by many a tractor trailer driver.

    1. Rob says:

      I just took a similar type bus upstate. The drivers both ways were fantastic however I did notice that no one wore their seatbelts. The bus on the return trip did not even have seatbelts. It seems like an obvious one too me.

  44. casper says:

    I honestly believe these bus drivers are not qualified and experienced.

  45. Gholamhosain Tasbihi says:

    13+6+13 which is 32 but in the report it was 31. Hower, it is very sad for anybody and my condolences and sympathy wish to go to all families and relatives with any ideologies or reliigion, etc

    1. paul says:

      Tours bus carrying 31 people + 1 DRIVER = 32 in total

  46. esmond says:

    a sad day for all concerned. my prayers are with their families.

  47. Daniel N says:

    Thats a very dangerouse area. Alot of times cars go from the left lane all the way to the right so they can use the exit for the hutch. Don’t blame the driver of the bus. I drive thru there everyday driving a loaded dump trailer and all the “4 wheelers” have absolutley no respect for anyone else. Whoever caused this was probably on there CELL phone……

  48. DeeMee says:

    This is very sad I pray for these families

  49. Ralph says:

    World Wide Tours bus tour bus not Greyhound Bus (as the photo caption says)

  50. RS says:

    A tragedy, but no surprise. Many of these companies are renegade, and the city does nothing to monitor them or enforce laws already on the books. For example, even though they are from out-of-town they are required to have licensed New York City sightseeing guides on board, many, many do not. They city just looks the other way – how can you miss them?

    1. CBN says:

      I think it was New Yorker’s onboard though… This tour bus was coming from Mohegan Sun back to NYC.

    2. Ben says:

      What good would a tour guide have done?
      “Ladies and gentlemen, ahead and to the right is precisely where 42% of you will meet your demise. Just beyond that and to the left, is the Bronx’s own Co-op City.”

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