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Bus driver under investigation after deadly Saturday crash

After a Saturday commercial bus accident in New York, investigators are questioning the bus driver in an attempt to find out what caused the horrific accident that killed 15 passengers.

According to state officials, the 40-year-old bus driver apparently has a criminal record, including a 1995 ticket for speeding, two others for driving without a driver’s license, and a charge for providing police with a false identity.

The bus crash took place on Saturday as it was transporting passengers from a casino in downtown Manhattan to New York’s Chinatown. According to sources, the bus was sheared in half after it crashed into a sign post off of I-95. The bus was one of many like it that daily travel between Chinatown and casinos in southeastern Connecticut.

An investigation of the bus driver conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board is focusing on the 72 hours prior to the Saturday crash, particularly video camera footage from the casino. “We want to know what he ate, what he drank and how much he slept,” said NSTB Vice Chairman Christopher Hart.

Investigators began looking more closely at the bus driver after witnesses to the accident falsified his claim that a tractor-trailer clipped the tour bus prior to the accident.

An incomplete log book was reportedly found in the bus. All commercial drivers are required to fill out the log books, which are meant to prevent fatigued commercial drivers from being on the road.

Governor Cuomo initiated a state investigation of how the driver obtained a commercial driver’s license with a 1990 manslaughter conviction on his record. The driver also served three years for grand larceny for stealing a check in 2002. In 2003, he was also arrested in New York for driving with a suspended license and possession of three police radios. He has also been arrested for trying to ride public transportation without paying.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there are no federal regulations which prohibit states from issuing commercial driver’s licenses to a driver with a criminal record.

Most of the victims of the accident were of Chinese descent. Two victims have yet to be identified.

Saturday’s crash, along with the one like it on Monday, is putting commercial passengers on notice about the potential risks of riding public transportation.

Source: Washington Times, “Officials probe bus driver’s trail before fatal N.Y. crash,” Michael Gormley, 15 Mar 2011.

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