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Driver fatigue factor in NYC bus crash?

March 13, 2011 at 8:39 PM   |   Comments

NEW YORK, March 13 (UPI) -- The New York State Police said it was looking into the possibility the driver in a deadly tour bus crash fell asleep at the wheel.

Passengers reportedly have told investigators driver Ophadell Williams appeared to nod off moments before his World Wide Tours bus went off Interstate 95 and hit a light pole, NY1 reported Sunday.

The (Westchester, N.Y.) Journal News reported Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records showed the company's buses were inspected 26 times in the past two years, with five violations related to fatigued driving issued in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, and there were two crashes with injuries. The company had no serious violations during the period, the records show.

World Wide was placed on alert status, which allows for additional roadside inspections and follow-ups with the company, the newspaper said.

The crash in New York City's Bronx borough Saturday left 14 people dead and several injured, including eight who remained in serious condition.

Williams has told police he swerved to avoid a passing truck; however, NY1 said some passengers told investigators the bus had hit the rumble strips on the freeway three times before the crash.

"We're conducting at this point as if it is a criminal investigation," State Police Maj. Michael Kopy told a news conference Saturday. "It is in the very infant stages of the investigation and it will take a long period of time to determine what, if any, criminal act may have occurred here."

Williams, 40, is an ex-convict but has been a bus driver since his teenage years. He remained hospitalized Sunday and his family told the New York Daily News he was in despair over the accident.

The New York Times reported Saturday's crash put a new spotlight on the many bus operators such as World Wide Tours that offer inexpensive trips to New England casinos. Such trips tend to be grueling missions in which drivers work long hours at night on roads shared with fast-moving heavy trucks.

"Tractor-trailers are our biggest problem," bus driver Marvin Ha told the Times. "When the rear of the truck slides toward you, you have to stay calm because if you steer too hard to avoid it, you might flip."

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