Skip to main content

Bronx bus crash driver loses driving privileges

By the CNN Wire Staff
A tour bus flipped over in New York on March 12, killing 15 people.
A tour bus flipped over in New York on March 12, killing 15 people.
  • Authorities suspend license of driver said to be at wheel in fatal bus crash
  • Governor's office: DMV data indicates false statements made on license applications
  • Funerals for the 15 victims begin Friday in Queens

New York (CNN) -- The driver's license of the man authorities say was behind the wheel of a bus that crashed last weekend in the Bronx, killing 15 people, has been suspended, according to state officials.

The Department of Motor Vehicles turned over information to New York State Police and the state inspector general regarding evidence of alleged false statements given by Ophadel Williams, 40, the driver of the Bronx bus and has suspended his license, according to a statement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office Thursday.

"The information the DMV is referring for investigation includes driver license applications containing false statements about the status of his license and whether this was done to conceal the fact that he had been using multiple names and had a suspension under one of those names," Howard Glaser, the governor's director of state operations, said in a statement.

Police said Williams told investigators that the incident occurred the morning of March 12 after he swerved to avoid a tractor-trailer that might have clipped the bus. The bus then flipped on its side and smashed into poles, which cut through two-thirds of the vehicle. Williams has not yet been charged.

Cuomo directed Inspector General Ellen Biben to "commence an immediate investigation" in light of issues related to Williams' "criminal record and driving history." In a statement, Cuomo questioned why Williams was able to get and keep a commercial driver's license.

Staff from the inspector general's office are coordinating with the New York State Police, as well as the Bronx district attorney's office, in the investigation, according to Cuomo.

Williams fatally stabbed a man about 20 years ago, leading to a manslaughter conviction, New York Department of Correctional Services spokeswoman Linda Foglia said. He served three of the nine years he was sentenced to, from 1992 to 1994.

He was later convicted of grand larceny, leading him to spend parts of the years 1998 to 2002 behind bars, according to Foglia.

The bus involved in last weekend's crash had left the Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut, and was bound for Chinatown in Manhattan.

Along with those killed, at least seven of the 31 passengers suffered severe injuries and were taken to area hospitals with the remaining survivors. The first in a series of 15 funerals was set for Friday in Flushing, Queens.

Williams suffered "non-life-threatening injuries," police said.

Police recovered a tractor-trailer that was traveling through the area at the time and interviewed its driver. The driver of the tractor-trailer denied that two vehicles collided before the bus crashed, a law enforcement source told CNN.

Federal investigators are considering other potential causes of the crash, including mechanical problems, steering and brake issues, as well as the possibility the driver fell asleep. Some surviving passengers, according to news reports, told police that they felt the bus roll over rumble strips before the crash.

At a news conference last weekend, National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Christopher Hart said investigators are looking for video recordings taken at the casino and, possibly, an electronic hotel key card that might track some of Williams' activities within 72 hours of the accident.

Investigators previously said they were examining Williams' background and testing his blood for the presence of alcohol. Police officials also have said they were looking into the possibility that Williams had been speeding before the accident. Two UPS couriers told CNN affiliate WABC-TV that they twice saw the bus traveling very fast on the highway before the accident.

CNN's Nina Raja contributed to this report.