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15th victim dies from injuries after NYC bus crash

March 16, 2011 9:08:05 AM PDT
The 15th victim has died after a tour bus that crashed on a New York highway in a horrific weekend accident.

PHOTO GALLERY: VIEW PHOTOS FROM THE SCENE

The driver of the tour bus that crashed in the Bronx is out of the hospital Monday morning, but he's going to face a lot of questions about what led up to the tragedy that killed 15 people.

Ophadell Williams said a tractor-trailer clipped his bus, causing him to lose control as he headed to Chinatown from the Mohegan Sun casino.

LINK: MORE ON DRIVER'S PAST

But passengers and other drivers have told investigators that Williams was swerving well before the bus flipped and slammed into a pole.

As many as 20 passengers were treated at hospitals following the accident. Five remained hospitalized Sunday, according to a statement from Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx. All were in critical condition.

Officials at Jacobi were still trying to identify one passenger, an Asian man in his 50s, said spokeswoman Barbara DeIorio.

"He's very injured, he's not able to communicate yet," she said, adding that the man was in the surgical intensive care unit.

The 15 fatalities all died of blunt force trauma, said Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the New York City medical examiner's office. She said the office was working with family members to identify them.

While an electronic data recorder from the bus engine and an interior camera may provide critical clues, it is simple measure on-site measurements that in the early stages are helping point investigators toward the cause of Saturday's fatal crash.

The NTSB team has already determined the bus slid for 480 feet before coming to a stop.

"That's one of things we will be looking into to determine speed. We see it impacted rail guard 3 times before coming to stop," said Christopher Hart with the NTSB.

Eyewitness accounts are also key to determining what made the bus driver lose control and send the motor coach on its deadly slide.

A day after a UPS driver told Eyewitness News how he saw the World Wide Bus fly by him before minutes later seeing it on its side, he was contacted by investigators.

"They asked if I could come and make an official statement. I told them exactly what I saw," said Ira Berman.

An Eyewitness News investigation several years ago revealed speeding routine among casino buses. Back then we clocked numerous companies travelling 25 miles an hour over the speed limit.

But the driver in Saturday's crash told police a swerving tractor trailer triggered the crash.

At the time of the crash, World Wide was on an alert notice after federal inspectors cited them for five violations for fatigued drivers. It's one reason investigators so interested in the activities of the driver before he got behind the wheel.

"We want to ask casino if they have any video that shows driver did he have a room, did he use a room key," adds Hart.

The casino has a lounge for bus drivers with coffee, soda, snacks and televisions, Mohegan Sun President Jeff Hartmann said. He said he did not know whether Williams was in the lounge before the trip.

Police released the names of the dead victims:
Aquino, Miguel
Eng, Kam Ming
Eng, Yuk Chun
Garcia, Jose
Lee, Bing Fong
Lee, Don
Mei, Biqin
Tran, Ninh
Wang Jian Hua
Wong, May Lin
Wong, Ock Thling
Xian, Yang T.
Yeh, Michael

As investigators examine every piece of the wreckage for answers, Eyewitness News has learned that these overnight tour buses to casinos are not popular just with gamblers, but also with the homeless population.

These buses actually provide a cheap and easy escape from the harsh cold streets of New York.

For a couple of bucks, the homeless get to sleep in the warm plush seats and enjoy a hot meal at the resort. One of the 15 who died was homeless.

Friends tell Eyewitness he was actually $3 shy of the $15 ticket that night, but came up with the extra cash and hopped on board.


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