The driver who lost control of a bus near New Orleans last month, slamming into a fire truck and two other vehicles, told investigators his employer knew that he was unlicensed.
Denis Yasmir Amaya Amaya-Rodriguez, a 37-year-old undocumented immigrant from Honduras, told Jambalaya News Louisiana that he didn’t want to drive a commercial bus on the morning of Aug. 28 because he was unlicensed and unqualified.
Mr. Amaya-Rodriguez departed from the Target in Metairie with two dozen passengers headed to Baton Rouge. About 20 miles later, his bus plowed into two passenger vehicles and a fire truck stopped at the scene of a previous accident on I-10 West. The collision killed two people, including St. John the Baptist Parish fire district Chief Spence Chauvin, and injured several others.
Police told reported that the impact pushed the fire chief and two other firemen over a guardrail, sending them plummeting 40 feet to the water.
The two other firefighters forced over the bridge were identified as William Mack Beal, 35, of Gonzales and Nicholas Saale, 32, of Ponchatoula. Mr. Salle was airlifted to University Medical Center Level 1 Trauma Center with critical injuries. Mr. Beal suffered moderate injuries and has since been released from the hospital.
A 21-year-old male who was in the back seat of a car struck by the bus was pronounced dead at the scene. Two others in the front seat of the car were taken to the hospital with serious injuries. Five others in a Chevy pickup truck, including two children, suffered injuries ranging from minor to moderate.
All 24 passengers on the bus also received injuries ranging from minor to moderate. Mr. Amaya-Rodriguez was driving them to Baton Rouge to assist in flood remediation efforts there.
“On the day of the accident, I was driving. I was driving the bus. They gave me the bus. They check it out. They said everything is ready, and the bus lost its brakes. There was an accident in front of me and when I went to put on the brakes, the bus didn’t have any. Nothing. No brakes, and it was raining too,” Mr. Amaya-Rodriguez told Jambalaya News.
Mr. Amaya-Rodriguez said his boss, Christian Lombardo, manager of Kristina’s Transportation LLC, gave him the bus to drive.
“And the problem with Chris picking me as the driver is that I don’t have a license. I told him I don’t want to drive. I don’t have a license to drive big vehicles here,” Mr. Amaya-Rodriguez said.
Mr. Amaya-Rodriguez told Jambalaya News that he saw the previous crash about 300 meters ahead of him and tried to brake, but the brakes were not responding. “I couldn’t get it to brake. I had nowhere to go because both lanes were blocked,” Mr. Amaya-Rodriguez told Jambalaya News.
The crash remains under investigation. Louisiana State Troopers have said that speed was a factor in the crash but have not determined whether there were any mechanical failures on the bus.
Mr. Amaya-Rodriguez has been cited five times since 2012 for driving without a license. He was arrested and booked with two counts of negligent homicide, reckless operation, and driving without a license. He remains in jail on a $1.1 million bond.