Sources: Driver had suspended license


Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y.

The driver of a bus in a horrific weekend crash that killed 15 people in New York City should not have been able to get behind the wheel because of a driving suspension and several traffic violations, two state officials familiar with the accident probe told The Associated Press on Monday.

Ophadell Williams was ticketed in 1995 for speeding and twice for driving without a license, giving police the alias of Erik Williams, the officials said. Williams’ driving privileges were suspended — meaning he couldn’t legally drive in the state — after he failed to address the charges.

The revelations about Williams — a convicted felon with a 20-year-old manslaughter conviction —prompted Gov. Andrew Cuomo to launch a state investigation into how Williams was able to hold a valid commercial driver’s license at the time of the crash early Saturday.

Calls to Williams’ Brooklyn home were unanswered Monday. A spokesman for the bus company that employed him, World Wide Travel, declined to comment, on the instructions of federal investigators.

A 15th person died Monday in the crash of the bus taking gamblers home from a few hours at the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut. The bus was sheared in half by a sign pole, killing and maiming people in a jumbled mess on the highway.

Investigators zeroed in on the 40-year-old Williams’ record after his story that his tour bus was clipped by a tractor-trailer fell apart when passengers and witnesses said it never happened.

Investigators are piecing together his trail by matching Social Security numbers of traffic stops under various names, the officials said, speaking to the AP on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation. Williams also had an incomplete log book, a requirement for commercial drivers, the officials said.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators said Monday they were looking at Williams’ last 72 hours before the crash, checking the casinos’ surveillance video.

“We want to know what he ate, what he drank and how much he slept,” said NTSB vice chairman Christopher Hart.

Williams was convicted of crimes using two aliases. He served just more than two years for manslaughter for his role in a stabbing in 1990, according to state corrections records. He initially had been charged with second-degree murder.

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