(New York, NY - WNYC) Documents released by federal investigators show the driver involved in a deadly Bronx bus crash when returning from a Connecticut casino last year was hired in 2007 to drive a city bus. An MTA background check kept Williams off the road, but only until a private company hired him.
On his job application with the MTA, driver Ophadell Williams admitted his driver's license had been suspended from 1996 to 2003 because of "child support." He also wrote, "I made a couple of mistakes in my life."
That did not stop the MTA from hiring him. But then a background check revealed Williams had failed to disclose a pair of felony convictions. A superintendent, on finding that out, wrote in a memo that "It is imperative that Mr. Williams" termination be completed as soon as possible." Williams resigned a few days later, after two weeks on the job. The MTA says Williams never got behind the wheel of a bus with passengers.
Private tour bus operator World Wide Travel hired Williams as a driver in 2010. He was driving a bus for the company in March, 2011, when he crashed on I-95, killing 15 passengers.
National Transportation Safety Board documents released today show that Williams' cellphone and rental car were in almost continuous use during the three days before he made a pre-dawn run from Connecticut to New York City--times when he said he'd been sleeping. A preliminary report last year said Williams was speeding at 78 miles per hour shortly before he lost control of the bus, which struck a highway signpost.
A toxocology test cleared Williams of drug use, and a breath test that he took at the scene of the accident showed that he hadn't been drinking.
The NTSB says it will release "an analysis of the collision, along with conclusions and its probable cause" on June 5. Williams has pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.