NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Investigators have identified the five victims of Sunday’s deadly bus crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, including three people from New York.
Police said 9-year-old Jaremy Vazquez, of Brooklyn, and 35-year-old Dr. Eileen Zelis Aria, of the Bronx, were killed in the pileup, along with 58-year-old bus driver Shuang Qing Feng, of Queens.
Aria was a dental anesthesia resident at Jacobi Medical Center.
The bus carrying 57 people departed from Canal Street in Chinatown and was bound for Cincinnati when it lost control around 3:40 a.m. Sunday and flipped onto its side near Pittsburgh.
Two tractor-trailers hit the bus, then another tractor-trailer crashed into them. A passenger vehicle was also involved.
The bus crashed just 10 miles short of a pit stop where its crew was supposed to be swapped out.
Two UPS employees from Pennsylvania — 48-year-old Dennis Kehler and 53-year-old Daniel Kepner — died in one of the tractor-trailers.
“It was headed on a downhill grade, and the bus was unable to negotiate a corner. That bus went up an embankment, rolled over, and then was subsequently struck,” Pennsylvania State Police Spokesperson Stephen Limani told reporters Sunday.
An 11-year-old bus passenger who called 911 later spoke with CBS2 by phone.
“All of a sudden, I just heard a crash, and everybody started screaming. And then there were two more,” said Gariel Koberidze. “I tried telling everybody to stay calm and calm down and stop yelling. I told them the cops were on their way.”
Federal investigators say the driver had a satisfactory rating and recently passed his national compliance review. The bus had been inspected last month without any issue, and the road they were traveling on had been resurfaced last year.
The National Transportation Safety Board says there were no lap shoulder belts for passengers on board the bus.
“When you see accident after accident where a death or serious injury could’ve been prevented by a seat belt … it’s frustrating and it’s devastating,” said Jennifer Homendy with the NTSB.
It’s unclear if the driver was wearing a seat belt.
“We have issued recommendation after recommendation to have lap shoulder belts on motorcoaches … We continue to see accidents where passengers are ejected,” Homendy said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told CBS2 that it mandated lap shoulder belts for coach buses made after 2016. This bus, however, was made before then and the mandate does not require older models be retrofitted with shoulder belts.
The NTSB said it’s now reviewing dash cam video and the bus’s black box to determine how fast the bus was going before it crashed.
The bus tickets were sold out of the Ohio Coach office in Manhattan, but federal records list the company — Z & D Tour — as based out of a strip mall on Route 46 East in Rockaway, New Jersey.
Officials are working to determine whether weather was a factor, but one witness who was driving in the other direction said the roads were slick with snow.
“It was a mess, there was debris everywhere,” Angela Maynard said. “It was awful.”
Police said approximately 60 people, including a 7-year-old, were treated at local hospitals and were expected to survive. Reports say among them were two brothers from Irvington, New Jersey, who were taking the bus to Ohio for work.
Some of the victims were from other countries and didn’t speak English, police said.
On Sunday night, another bus left Canal Street also headed for Cincinnati. Passengers said they were hoping for a safe trip.
“It’s really scary knowing that you’re going to get a bus and potentially that could happen to you,” said Ashley Lewis.
One passenger CBS2’s Nick Caloway spoke to was supposed to be on the bus that crashed, but missed it, and caught a bus Sunday night instead.
“Only thing I can do is pray that I make it back home safe. That’s it,” Zipporah Robertson said.
Employees at the bus company’s ticket office wouldn’t comment about the accident.