Driver in Fatal Bronx Bus Crash Pleads Not Guilty

The driver of a tour bus that crashed on a New York City highway, resulting in the deaths of 15 passengers, pleaded not guilty to manslaughter charges in Bronx State Supreme Court on Thursday.

Driver Ophadell Williams claimed a tractor trailer clipped the bus, which caused it to swerve off of I-95 in the Bronx and smash into a steel guardrail on March 12. Federal regulators found no evidence of the incident.

Williams' attorney reitereated Thursday that Williams was awake and alert when the bus was clipped by a tractor trailer.

The bus operator, World Wide Travel, had a contract with Mohegan Sun Casino to make 14 daily round-trips between New York City and the casino in Uncasville, Connecticut. Williams was driving the return leg of that run when the accident occurred at 5:45 a.m.

The crash killed 15 people, mostly Chinese men and women who were regulars at casinos, and injured 15 others.

The driver's attorney told the New York Times that his client would surrender.

Sensors on the bus's engine show it was moving at top speed down a southbound lane of the Hutchinson River Parkway only 45 seconds before impact, an April report by the National Transportation Safety Board revealed.

The Federal Motorcoach Safety Administration gave the company a "satisfactory" rating in 2008, the last time it was reviewed. But World Wide Travel's current status with the FMCSA shows it finished in the bottom half of bus companies for violations in the category of driver's fatigue. Inspectors found fatigued drivers on World Wide Travel buses five times during 27 inspections in 2009 and 2010.

With the Associated Press