Updated 03/13/2011 08:15 PM
NTSB: Investigation Continues Into Fatal Bronx Bus Crash
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National Transportation Safety Board officials said Sunday evening that the investigation is ongoing into the cause of a bus crash in the Bronx Saturday that claimed the lives of 14 people and left eight others hospitalized in serious condition.
At a Sunday evening news conference, NTSB Vice Chairman Christopher Hart announced that the bus' black box was found and has been sent to Washington, D.C to be reviewed.
Published reports say the officials are looking into whether the driver, Ophadell Williams, fell asleep at the wheel.
Williams, 40, was driving the World Wide Tours bus when he apparently lost control and crashed on the New England Thruway early Saturday. The bus slammed into a guard rail, overturned and hit a sign post, slicing the roof off nearly end-to-end at window level.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, drivers with World Wide Tours had been cited five times for fatigued driving just in the past two years. Records also show World Wide Tours was involved in crashes in New York in 2009 and last year in New Jersey, both of which resulted in an injured passenger.
A number of passengers in Sunday's crash are contradicting the driver's statement to police that the bus was side-swiped by a tractor-trailer. A law enforcement official tells the Associated Press that several passengers say that prior to the crash, the driver swerved several times for no apparent reason.
While visiting some of the victims at the hospital Sunday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said investigators will piece together what happened to make future bus rides safer.
"There are these battles of some of the tour operators and it's a constant battle to make sure they follow safety standards,” said the mayor. “What happened here, we really don't know. There's an investigation going on and eventually we should get some pretty good answers."
Fourteen of the 32 people on board were killed. According to the city medical examiner, eight of them were men and six of them were women.
Eight remain in serious condition at St. Barnabas and Jacobi hospitals in the Bronx. Injuries include severe head trauma and lost limbs.
As of Sunday evening, the driver remained in the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Published reports say he pleaded guilty in 2003 to driving without a license.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg says there are still some victims who have not been identified. Anyone with information is asked to call 311. The mayor says relatives should not be worried about their documentation status.
He spoke to one of the victims through a translator.
"She was optimistic and strong and, while badly hurt, the doctors said she's going to be fine," said the mayor. "A number of them were unconscious. I did talk to some of the family members."
Dr. Sheldon Teperman, who heads the trauma unit h at Jacobi said that after the carnage of the crash scene, he's pleased with how his medical staff responded.
"This hospital sees the worst of what humanity has, with night club shootings, and as horrible as this is for the Chinese-American community, people came together and some of the best of what humanity has, we saw yesterday in our trauma center," said Teperman.
The city is doing what it can for friends and families of the passengers.
The 5th Police Precinct in Chinatown opened its doors to help, as most of the bus's passengers were from the neighborhood. There were translators and free shuttles to the hospitals.
Assistance was also available at Bellevue Hospital.