Bus driver in deadly New York crash faces scrutiny

NEW ROCHELLE, New York Mon Mar 14, 2011 6:22pm EDT

A general view of a bus crash is seen on Interstate 95 in New York in this still image taken from video March 12, 2011. REUTERS/Courtesy of WNBC-TV/Handout

A general view of a bus crash is seen on Interstate 95 in New York in this still image taken from video March 12, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Courtesy of WNBC-TV/Handout

NEW ROCHELLE, New York (Reuters) - Investigators of the weekend bus crash that killed 15 people on a New York highway said on Monday they want to know what the driver was doing for the 72 hours leading up to the horrific accident.

Driver Ophadel William has told authorities the crash occurred when a tractor-trailer hit the bus, and that he swerved and toppled into a metal sign pole on Interstate 95. The pole ripped through the bus and tore off most of its roof.

None of the 32 people on board the bus carrying passengers to New York City's Chinatown from the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut escaped death or injury in the crash, which occurred at about 5:30 a.m. on Saturday.

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board plan to interview the bus driver on Tuesday, said Christopher Hart, NTSB vice chairman, at a media briefing.

The NTSB also will question witnesses and review any videos made at the casino that may reveal what the driver was doing 72 hours before the crash, Hart said. The NTSB also wants to know if he had a room at the casino, he said.

"We'll want to know what he ate, what he drank, how much he slept, everything we can find out about the activities of the driver in the 72 hours prior," Hart said.

A preliminary report into the cause of the crash is likely in about 30 days, Hart said.

State police said earlier that several witnesses and passengers have told them William was driving fast.

The bus driver was tested for alcohol and illicit drug use, and the NTSB was awaiting the results of those tests, he said.

Investigators also were combing the bus company's records into the driver's training and experience and see what fatigue management programs are in place at the company, he said. The bus was operated by World Wide Travel of Brooklyn, New York.

An interview also was scheduled with the driver of the tractor-trailer and its owner, Webster Trucking Co., which has offices in Massachusetts and Connecticut, Hart said.

The NTSB is reviewing engine control modules from the bus and truck that would have recorded data from the time of the crash and any surveillance video taken on the bus.

Thirteen people were pronounced dead at the crash scene, and the other two deaths occurred at hospitals.

(Additional reporting by Aman Ali; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst,Jerry Norton and Greg McCune)

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