Updated 03/14/2011 11:47 PM
Driver's Criminal Past Emerges In Wake Of Bronx Bus Crash
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As federal investigators work to piece together information about Saturday's bus crash on Interstate 95 in the Bronx, NY1 is learning more about the criminal history of the driver.
The State Department of Corrections says Ophadell Williams, 40, was convicted of manslaughter for his role in a 1990 stabbing and served more than two years behind bars.
Officials say he also has theft convictions.
Additionally, two state officials tell the Associated Press Williams had his license suspended in 1995 after he failed to respond to several tickets.
Speaking at a news conference Monday, the National Transportation Safety Board says they expect to interview Williams on Tuesday.
He was released from the hospital Sunday night and has not yet been charged in the bus crash.
Williams claims that a tractor trailer sideswiped the bus, but witnesses, passengers and the driver of the tractor trailer contradict that claim. They say that in the moments before the crash, Williams swerved a few times for no apparent reason.
The NTSB says they will be checking both the bus and truck for any contact, along with analyzing control modules from both vehicles.
Investigators are interviewing passengers and expect to interview the driver of the tractor trailer later this week.
They're also looking at surveillance video from the casino, trying to recreate Williams' whereabouts.
"We want to see if he used a room card, we'll be exploring all the sources of information we can because one of the areas we routinely gather information on after any accident like this is what was the driver doing the 72 hours prior to the accident," said NTSB Vice Chairman Christopher Hart.
Records reveal that drivers for the bus company, World Wide Tours, were cited for fatigued-driving five times in the past two years.
The tour bus veered off the road at approximately 5:30 Saturday morning, toppled on its side and slid into a highway sign that sliced through the top of the bus.
The bus was on its way back to the city from the Mohegan Sun Casino when it crashed near Exit 14 on the New England Thruway.
A 70-year-old man was the latest to die from his injuries Monday morning at Saint Barnabas hospital, bringing the death toll to 15.
Thirteen passengers died at the scene of the crash, and a fourteenth died a short time later at Jacobi Hospital.
As many as 20 people were treated at hospitals.
Several passengers remain in critical condition.
Doctors say they have yet to identify one patient and are asking for anyone with information to come forward.
NY Lawmakers Call For Tougher Safety Regulations
In the aftermath of the deadly bus crash, lawmakers are calling for a top-to-bottom review of the tour bus industry.
Senator Charles Schumer and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez gathered in front of City Hall Monday to call for a federal overhaul.
"So we're asking the NTSB to do a top-to-bottom review of the industry and see if the federal regulators are doing their job and if not, to make recommendations on how to improve it," Schumer said.
"This is not about putting out of business this industry, this is about human life, this is about avoiding another tragedy," Velazquez said.
Discount bus passengers who spoke with NY1 seemed to agree that an added oversight is needed.
"Inspection is always good, why not, check them out. If the government finds anything wrong, make them correct. I don't have a problem. If they want to check it out, it's good for us," said one passenger.
"It's not one of those shady, fly-by-night bus companies. It all seems very legitimate," argued another.
Meanwhile, a driver from discount operator BoltBus was arrested last week for allegedly being drunk behind the wheel.
New Jersey State Police say 46-year-old Elia Rodriguez's blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit while he navigated a bus from New York to Baltimore on Friday.
The company says the driver has been suspended.