The driver of the World Wide Tours bus that crashed on I-95 in the Bronx March 12 was driving nearly 80 mph on the 55-mph interstate, transportation authorities said. The violent crash occurred when Ophadell Williams, the bus driver, lost control of the vehicle and toppled it, sliding on its side into a road sign. The signposts tore the roof completely off at the window line, killing 15 passengers and injuring many of the 17 others on the bus.
Two of the crash survivors, Yuke Chue Lo, 74, and Erold Jean Marie, 53, have filed lawsuits against Mr. Williams and World Wide Tours. Both plaintiffs, who were critically injured on the bus, say Mr. Williams was falling asleep at the wheel and had swayed out of his lane and onto the rumble strips three times in 30 minutes before he crashed.
Ms. Lo, who seeks $20 million in damages, suffered a fractured skull and traumatic brain injuries in the crash and will have to undergo extensive rehabilitation. Mr. Jean Marie, who crawled out of the wreckage with injuries to his spine and shoulder, is suing for $200 million in damages. His lawyer described the crash, saying, “People were decapitated. You couldn’t make a horror film that was nearly this bad.” Both plaintiffs allege World Wide Tours was negligent in allowing Mr. Williams to drive the bus.
Blood and breath tests confirmed that Mr. Williams was sober at the time of the crash. Investigators are still trying to determine how much rest he got after he drove the bus from New York City late Friday night and returned early Saturday morning. Prompted by the deadly crash, transportation officials conducted a sting operation targeting discount bus tours, which resulted in 14 motor coaches being pulled off the road for major safety violations. The most frequently cited violation involved failure to record driving hours as required by law.
Authorities suspended Mr. Williams’ commercial driver’s license upon discovering that he had given police aliases twice to avoid being ticketed and risking his license. Authorities confirmed he also served two years in prison for a 1990 stabbing and was jailed for three years in 1998 on a grand larceny conviction. He has not been charged in the bus crash.