A horrific bus crash that claimed the lives of 15 people and injured several others may have been caused by fatigue or distraction, some passengers and other witnesses have told authorities. The bus, owned and operated by World Wide Tours of Brooklyn, New York, was traveling east on I-95 with 31 passengers when it swerved off the interstate and crashed about 5:30 a.m. Saturday.
The crash killed 14 people on the scene. A 15th passenger died from his injuries this morning, while three others remain on life support. Several others remain in St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx where they are being treated for non life-threatening injuries.
The driver of the bus, Ophadell Williams, 40, had arrived at the Mohegan Sun Casino in eastern Connecticut to drop off a load of passengers around 11 p.m. Friday. Williams told investigators that he napped in the casino parking lot until he was called to pick up a New York-bound group of passengers at 3 a.m.
Mr. Williams told authorities that after the bus crossed into the Bronx from Westchester County, a passing tractor trailer clipped the bus and caused him to lose control of the vehicle.
Accounts given by the surviving bus passengers, however, didn’t match up to Mr. Williams’ version. They reported that the bus had swerved several times, often driving over the rumble strips that warn drivers they are at risk of leaving the road. The passengers, en route to New York’s Chinatown where they lived and worked, told police they were afraid that the driver was falling asleep or that something was distracting him.
The bus then toppled over and slid on its side nearly 500 feet before hitting a highway signpost. The post sheared the bus in half from front to back at its window line.
Police were able to detain the tractor trailer but could find no evidence on it or the bus indicating the two vehicles made contact. Police reported that the truck driver and his employer have been extremely cooperative with investigators. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are analyzing footage from the bus surveillance camera that faced passengers, hoping to find additional clues. They are also analyzing the engine control module to determine if the bus was traveling above the 55 mph speed limit as witnesses have reported.
A background check on Mr. Williams revealed 1 1992 conviction of manslaughter for which he served two years in prison and an additional four years prison time on a larceny conviction.