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Riders dispute driver's report of crash

Riders dispute driver's report of crash

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By TOM HAYS

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Passengers and witnesses to a horrific New York City crash that sheared the top off a bus and killed 14 people told investigators that the driver's account of getting clipped by a tractor-trailer didn't match up to what they felt and saw before the vehicle slid off the road and into a sign pole.

Driver Ophadell Williams had told police that his World Wide Tours bus was hit just as it crossed the New York City line early Saturday on a trip from the Mohegan Sun casino in in Connecticut.

But passengers said Williams had already swerved at times to the right for no reason before the accident, a law-enforcement official said Sunday. The official wasn't authorized to speak publicly about the probe and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The bus was returning to New York's Chinatown after a quick overnight trip to the casino. The official said that passengers said they didn't feel anything hit them and that other motorists on Interstate 95 said they didn't see the bus get hit. The official said police spoke to the tractor-trailer driver, who said he was following the bus.

Williams remained hospitalized in serious condition Sunday and has not commented publicly. His family could not be reached.

As many as 20 passengers were treated at hospitals following the accident. Nine, including the driver, remained hospitalized Sunday, according to spokesmen for St. Barnabas Hospital and Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx. Most were in critical condition.

Officials at Jacobi were still trying to identify one passenger, an Asian man in his 50s, said spokeswoman Barbara DeIorio. "He's very injured, he's not able to communicate yet," she said, adding that the man was in the surgical intensive care unit.

The 14 victims -- eight men and six women -- all died of blunt force trauma, said Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the New York City medical examiner's office. She said the office was working with family members to identify them.

Some of the 31 passengers were still asleep when the bus crashed at 5:35 a.m. Saturday. The bus scraped along the guardrail for 300 feet, toppled and crashed into the support pole for a highway sign indicating the exit for the Hutchinson Parkway. The pole knifed through the bus front to back along the window line, peeling the roof off all the way to the back tires.

Calls to World Wide Tours seeking information on Williams' service record or how long he had been with the company were not immediately returned.

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