Bronx, NY Tour Bus Accident, Mar 2011
CARNAGE ON I-95 AFTER CRASH RIPS BUS APART.
Bronx, N.Y. - A tour bus barreling south for Manhattan overturned at high speed on a highway in the Bronx early Saturday and was sliced open by a sign stanchion in a shriek of rending metal that hurled riders about like rag dolls. Fourteen people were killed and 19 were injured, 5 of them critically, the authorities said.
Victims of the accident, which happened about 5:30 a.m. on Interstate 95 just across the Bronx line from Westchester County, were returning to Chinatown on a chartered bus from the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, Conn. Some described grisly scenes of mayhem: at least one person decapitated, others maimed, people hanging upside down, victims gashed by flying glass, screaming in the darkness and struggling to get out. Some were thrown out on the ground, others were trapped in a maze of metal.
The crash cast a grim light on a nocturnal New York City subculture of overnight gamblers, many of them older Asian and Hispanic people, who take cheap buses from Chinatown to casinos in Connecticut and New Jersey, play the slots and tables for a few hours and catch an after-midnight bus home, usually sleeping on the trip back and often arriving just in time to get to return to work.
The driver, OPHADELL WILLIAMS, 40, survived. He told authorities that his bus was clipped by a passing tractor-trailer, which sped away, an assertion that the police later said was under investigation.
Out of control, the bus began swerving, toppled on its right side and skidded for 100 yards along a guardrail in showers of sparks, then rammed into the support pole of a large green sign pointing to the Hutchinson River Parkway exit.
The pole burst through the front window and sheared the bus in half laterally, from front to back, along the passenger window line, the police said. Firefighters found a section of guardrail inside the shattered bus amid unspeakable carnage.
"It was a pile of humans, either still in their seats or on the floor, wrapped in the metal, wrapped in the wreckage," said Capt. James Ellson, 42, a 20-year veteran of rescues and fires who was among the first on the scene.
"They were in the full length of the bus, from the front to the rear there were bodies. It was just a pile."
Captain Ellson said body parts were strewn about, and he described the rescue of a man trapped between the pole and the roofline with a two-inch-square chunk of roof metal impaled in his back. The man was alive, his eyes open, but trapped under three bodies - "two of them were obviously dead, and one of them was alive," the captain said.
One passenger, JOSE HERNANDEZ, said people were "screaming for help." He saw a woman whose arm was missing. "We tried to help people, but there was twisted metal in the way," he said.
One city official, who asked not to be identified, said the sign post "had come through at midchest, on the seat-high level, and had killed people."