Sunday, March 13, 2011

The bus company involved in an accident that left at least 14 people dead in New York this weekend has been involved in at least two other crashes with injuries in the past two years, government records show.

World Wide Travel was involved in a crash in New York in 2009 that resulted in one injury, and a crash in New Jersey in 2010 resulting in one injury, according to records on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website.

The company has been cited five times for "fatigued driving" between December 2009 and October 2010 -- twice in in New Jersey, twice in Pennsylvania and once in Connecticut, records show.

At least 14 passengers died early Saturday after the driver of their tour bus lost control of the vehicle and struck a pole on Interstate 95 in the Bronx, New York police said.

World Wide Travel declined to comment to CNN, despite repeated calls, other than to refer to a published statement saying the company was "heartbroken" at the deaths and injuries.

"We are a family owned company and realize words cannot begin to express our sorrow to the families of those who lost their lives or were injured in this tragic accident," the company statement said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with them. We will continue to use every resource at our disposal to assist and work with investigators to determine what happened."

The accident occurred about 5:30 a.m. at the Bronx-Westchester County line, and forced the closing of I-95 in both directions until late Saturday, police said. Along with those who were killed, eight of the 31 passengers suffered severe injuries and were transported to area hospitals with the remaining survivors.

The bus driver, Ophadel E. Williams, 40, of Brooklyn was also taken to an area hospital with "non-life-threatening injuries," police said.

Police have not determined the cause of the accident, which is now the subject of a criminal investigation, according to New York State Police troop commander Maj. Michael Kopy.

Williams said he was cut off by a truck driver, which caused his bus to swerve into a guardrail, flip on its side, and smash into a pole that cut through two-thirds of the vehicle. Kopy said police have recovered a tractor-trailer that was traveling through the area at the time and interviewed the vehicle's driver.

However, Kopy said it has not been determined whether the vehicle was involved in the accident. Kopy also said that police had received reports that the bus was traveling "at a high rate of speed."

Investigators are examining Williams' background and testing his blood for the presence of alcohol, Kopy said.

Kopy also said a video camera had been recovered from the bus, but that investigators had not yet viewed the video.

At least seven passengers had to be extracted by removing seats and cutting a hole in the remaining roof.

Most of the passengers were thrust to the forward third of the bus as it split open, suffering injuries mainly from the chest up, Fire Chief Edward Kilduff said.

At least five people being treated at New York's St. Barnabas Hospital suffered skull and spinal fractures, internal bleeding and broken bones, Dr. Ernest Patti told reporters.

"Our -- and the entire city's -- prayers, thoughts and sympathies are with the victims, and their families and loved ones," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a written statement Saturday. "Many of the victims are Chinese, and we have brought in translators to help assist the families."

The National Transportation Safety Board said it has deployed a 16-member team to investigate the crash.

The bus had departed from the Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut, and was traveling south on the New England Thruway near the border of Westchester and the Bronx -- one of New York City's five boroughs.


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