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Death Toll Now 14 in Bus Crash, Questions Remain

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Brooklyn, NYInvestigators want to determine just what the driver involved in a horrific bus crash March 12 in New York was doing in the 72 hours leading up to the crash. Driver Ophadell Williams told police that a truck had clipped his bus, causing him to lose control in a crash that killed 14 passengers and injured more than a dozen others, some critically. But some passengers aboard the doomed tour bus claim that the bus had swerved from the road several times, prior to the crash.

Meanwhile, there are some questions about the driver's background. What's more, this is the fourth incident involving World Wide Tours in as many years, according to reports.

The New York Times was reporting this morning that a tour bus operated by World Wide Tours was returning patrons from a night of gambling at the Mohegan Sun casino when the driver lost control after having just crossed over into the Bronx from Westchester County along Interstate 95. The tour bus flipped over onto its side and skidded about 500 feet along a guardrail before slamming into the first of two signposts.

The first pole sliced through the upper half of the bus, according to reports. In the horrific aftermath, 14 passengers were dead. Among the 17 survivors, there were many injuries.

The driver survived. His injuries were not reported as life threatening. Investigators have spoken with him and are checking into his background. The New York Times was reporting this morning that an Ophadell Williams, now 40, and the same age as the bus driver in Saturday's crash, was convicted of manslaughter in 1992 and served two years in prison, later serving an additional four years on a larceny conviction.

Police want to know if they are dealing with the same individual.

Investigators have spoken with the truck driver who, Williams alleges, clipped the bus, causing the accident. Police described the truck driver as cooperative. Also, witnesses on the bus told police that they had recollections of the bus repeatedly wandering over onto the rumble strips, a series of corrugated strips of asphalt along the shoulder of the highway designed to alert sleepy or distracted drivers that the vehicle is wandering from the roadway.

Williams was returning patrons from an overnight gambling jaunt in Eastern Connecticut when the accident happened. The tour bus left Mohegan Sun at 3:45 am March 12 on a run that, according to the bus driver's wife, was a regular tour for him. Authorities are trying to determine if Williams had access to or had checked into a room at the casino overnight for rest while his passengers were busy in the casino—and whether or not he had managed any sleep before starting the long drive back to the Bronx in the wee hours.

World Wide Tours is based in Gowanus, Brooklyn, and is operated by World Wide Travel of Greater New York. World Wide vehicles have been involved in four crashes over the past four years, according to records referenced in The New York Times. New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg noted during a press conference over the weekend that it was, in his words, "a constant battle" for regulators to ensure discount bus companies remain compliant with safety standards.

A camera on the front of the bus may have captured the true movement of the bus before the crash occurred. The engine control module from the 12-year-old tour bus was also recovered and sent to a laboratory for examination.

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