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Trial Begins For Driver Of Overturned Tour Bus That Killed 15

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TWC News: Trial Begins For Driver Of Overturned Tour Bus That Killed 15
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The manslaughter trial of a tour bus driver charged in a deadly Bronx crash is underway.

Ophadell Williams sat quietly next to his lawyer Thursday as prosecutors tried to paint him as an irresponsible driver who fell asleep behind the wheel.

Williams pleaded not guilty in the March 12, 2011 accident that killed 15 passengers.

He was driving passengers back to Manhattan from the Mohegan Sun Casino when his bus flipped on its side and slammed into a pole on the New England Thruway.

The pole sliced through the bus, shearing off the roof.

Lawyers on both sides said Williams's physical state will play a big part in the trial.

Prosecutors said Williams was sleep-deprived and speeding at the time of the crash.

They said the bus's black box shows Williams was driving 78 miles an hour just minutes before the accident. They say it also shows he didn't hit the brakes leading up to the crash.

"According to my expert, sleep deprivation, if it's severe enough, can mimic the effect on the reflexes that drunk driving would have," said Assistant District Attorney Gary Weil. "It's not the same. He wasn't drunk. But it has the same effect on the reflexes."

The defense, however, said a truck cut Williams off, causing the accident. They said the crash was a horrible accident and Williams shouldn't be on trial.

"He sits here accused of doing his job. But by the grace of God, doctor, nurse, Indian chief, you could be in that seat and that's what bothers me the most," Defense Attorney Patrick Bruno said. "But for the grace of God, please, give him a fair trial."

Speaking to reporters outside Bronx County Criminal Court, Florence Wong, the daughter of one of the victims, said she wants justice for her dad.

"I just want justice on behalf of my father," she said. "That's why I come. Nobody can stand up for my father except for family members. That's why I'm here today."

State officials have increased inspections of tour buses since the incident.

Many of the survivors are expected to testify in the trial.

The trial is expected to go on until early December. If convicted of all charges, Williams faces 7.5 to 15 years behind bars.

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