Mon, Mar 14, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Fourteen die in New York bus crash

CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION:Police are analyzing the bus driver’s blood and trying to determine his activities before the accident, and examining a tractor-trailer at the scene

AP, HAWTHORNE, NEW YORK

A tour bus returning from a casino at daybreak scraped along a guard rail, tipped on its side and slammed into a pole that sheared it nearly end to end, leaving a jumble of bodies and twisted metal along Interstate 95. Fourteen passengers were killed.

The bus on Saturday had just reached the outskirts of New York City on a journey from the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut when the high-speed crash occurred. The driver told police he lost control trying to avoid a swerving tractor-trailer, as assertion that police said was under investigation.

As many as 20 passengers were treated at area hospitals. Eight were in serious condition, according to police. Several were in surgery later in the day.

The crash happened at 5:35am local time, with some of the 31 passengers still asleep. The bus scraped along the guard rail for 90m, toppled and crashed into the support pole for a highway sign indicating the exit for the Hutchinson Parkway.

The pole knifed through the bus front to back along the window line, peeling the roof off all the way to the back tires. Most people aboard were hurled to the front of the bus on impact, Fire Department of New York Chief Edward Kilduff said.

The southbound lanes of the highway were closed for hours while emergency workers tended to survivors and removed bodies.

State police major Micheal Kopy said at a news conference on Saturday night that the crash was being handled “as if it is a criminal investigation.”

“It will take a long period of time to determine what, if any, criminal acts may have occurred here,” he said.

Kopy said police had received reports from witnesses that the bus driver had been speeding on the Interstate, where the limit is 88kph.

He identified the driver as Ophadel Williams, 40, of Brooklyn, New York, whom he said was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Kopy said blood had been drawn from the driver for analysis and that state police were working with authorities in Connecticut and Mohegan Sun officials to determine what the driver’s activities were before the accident.

“At this point it appears that the operator lost control of the vehicle for what is as yet an undetermined reason,” Kopy said.

He declined to identify the passengers or to describe their injuries.

“The pole did go through the top half of the bus,” he said.

Chung Ninh, 59, told the New York Times and that he had been asleep in his seat, then suddenly found himself hanging upside-down from his seat belt, surrounded by the dead and screaming. One man bled from a severed arm.

Ninh said when he tried to help one bloodied woman, the driver told him to stop, because she was dead. “Forget this one. Help another one,” he said the driver told him.

He said he and other passengers who were able climbed out through a skylight.

New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said earlier on Saturday that police were looking for the tractor-trailer, which did not stop after the crash. He said the truck was in a lane to the bus’ left, although it was unclear whether the two vehicles touched.

State police said later they were interviewing the driver of a tractor-trailer that was in the area at the time of the crash.

They said the trailer had been located on Long Island and the tractor was found in Westchester County. Both were being inspected in Farmingdale, on Long Island, to determine if they may have clipped the bus.

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