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.

RELATED STORIES: Officials Investigate Fatal Bus Crash In N.Y.| Police ID Fatal Bus Crash Victim from N.J.| 3 Children Among 7 Injured In Brooklyn School Bus Crash| Bronx Bus Stop Crash Caught On Tape | NJ Transit Bus, 4 Vehicles Crash In Lincoln Tunnel

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. s.mak says:

    is sad that it happened!
    lets hope it wont happen again by hiring responsible drivers. have them take exams to indicate their responsible level! then hire them…not anyone off the street can be a bus driver!

  2. yvonne says:

    i drive on this highway every day i live where the accident happen these bus driver especially at night are flying down the highway it was just a matter of time its so sad that so many people lost there lives my prayers to the family

  3. Min. Bob Cutting says:

    This is a horrific accident and a preventable tragedy from many angles. Having been a safety director in the bus industry, one thing that can be done by the DOT is to require log books and pay records to be the same. Far too many truck and bus drivers are pushed to produce and fudge their log books in many ways. Pay should be both by miles and hours. In this way piece work (per mile or trip) would not push drivers to the limits for rest.

    1. studakota says:

      Well put, but they don’t heed..

  4. Why Shaggy says:

    Buses going to fast, trucks going to fast, SUV’s going to fast, cars going to fast. We’re just lucky this does not happen more often.

  5. James says:

    addicted to race

  6. mike barone says:

    Anyone ever think that maybe, just maybe, If a truck was involved, and thats a big IF, and he was in the center lane,..Maybe the bus was in the right lane passing the truck when the truck swerved or so on , not expecting a bus to be passing on the right (illegal i maight add),…and trucks dont have steps,..they are ICC bars, to help cars from running under a truck,..and body of the truck is almost always a few inch’s further extended then the bar, and if you look at a bar,..they dont go from corner to corner,..most are 6 inch or more from corner,..and bus’s are not top heavy,..only windows and a roof above the 1/2 way point,..they sway easy because they ride with soft airbags for a better ride,..lets face it,..the guy was speeding, thats 1 main reason

    1. jd says:

      The article says that the bus was in the center lane and the truck was in the left hand lane. It’s obvious that the truck was hitting speeds higher than much of the other traffic, otherwise he wouldn’t be in the passing lane. Also, EVERYBODY speeds in New York. Try to go 55 mph on the highways and you are going to cause more accidents because everybody will be jumping lanes just to get around you.

    2. Get serious says:

      I think it’s ironic that truck drivers, who are supposed to be “professional” drivers, are usually the ones speeding and driving recklessly…..especially on 95

    3. Min. Bob Cutting says:

      In Response to Mike Barone and C Celi: This is the prime time of day (just hours before dawn) that speed and tiredness are greatest in Truck and Bus Drivers. Remember this was in these dark hours just before dawn. Also remember the NTSHA will be writing a report on this that will completely fill two notebooks and include all the drivers training, records, bus repairs etc. etc. for years prior. We will know for sure and shortly. If there was no contact between the bus and truck (damage marks evidence) it will solely be on the bus driver.

  7. Jan Potthoff says:

    My Thougts ar with the Familys of the victims… horrable story. 🙁

  8. win win says:

    you all shut up ur ass oneof my friend there

  9. SULLY says:

    I am an Airline pilot, and would like to express that if the same rules and ethics were at play on the highway with the general public, many would be clamoring that the DOT was fascist. Understand something, speed limit signs means not 10 miles over the limit. Tired truckers must respect their limitations and pull over and rest. In general, you people cause your on accidents, cell texting, speeding while assuming that you are always are in the right is wrong. DEAD WRONG

    1. Daniel N says:

      Go fly a plane into water “Silly”

  10. GENE' says:


    1. mike barone says:

      they are suppose to be self inspected every time they go out, trucks to,..and are spot inspected all the time,..weight stations dont just weigh,..they also inspect,.and bus’s go through yearly inspection

  11. ken says:

    God bless all the victims and rescue personnel connected to this gruesome accident. May the dead rest in peace and the survivors find a way to move on in time.

  12. Mr. Armeania says:

    Hopefully they find the truck driver or he comes forward. There is no way this driver did not know he hit the bus

Leave a Reply