News & Resources

Bus driver's background raises questions about company screening measures

Mar 18, 2011 Matt Roesly

A fatal bus crash in New York City last weekend cost the lives of 15 passengers, and now New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to know why the driver, who had a two felonies on his record, was allowed to get behind the wheel. Ophadell Williams, the driver who has yet to be charged in the accident, has convictions for manslaughter and forgery in his background but was not disqualified from receiving his commercial driver's license, according to the New York Daily News.
 The heat is on World Wide Travel - the charter company for which Williams drove the bus - because the driver should not have been able to obtain any license after his privilege was revoked in 1995, according to The Associated Press. Cuomo and other city lawmakers are now questioning the background screening practices of the company, given the responsibilities of Williams' job. "How could he have such an important job, taking people's lives in his hands?" said Patrick Wang, a brother of one of the victims, in an interview with the Daily News. Investigators are still conducting interviews with surviving passengers regarding the cause and nature of the crash. Initially, Williams told authorities that a tractor-trailer had swerved in front of the bus, causing him to quickly change lanes, which led to the bus overturning and slamming into a highway sign post. However, the Daily News reports that passengers claimed Williams began to fall asleep at the wheel prior to the accident. Regardless, Governor Cuomo is putting pressure on local investigators to find out how Williams got the position in the first place, CNN reports. The station reports that Cuomo dispatched Inspector General Ellen Biben to delve into Williams' background and the hiring practices of World Wide Travel. Additionally, National Transportation Safety Board Vice-Chairman Christopher Hart said that his agency will investigate Williams' actions in the hours leading up to the accident. According to CNN, at Hart's Sunday press conference, he announced the NTSB believes Williams may have spent time in a casino and will examine blood taken from him. The network also found that the charter company was cited for two accidents between 2009 and 2010, and was penalized five times for "fatigued driving" between December 2009 and October 2010.