All eyes are fixed on the casino tour driver trial taking place in New York today, as the man who crashed his bus and killed fifteen passengers whilst suffering from serious fatigue is tried for manslaughter. Ophadell Williams was an experienced driver, says the prosecution, and should have known better than to have continued driving with the lack of sleep that he was suffering.
On the 12th of March 2011, Williams was driving his bus full of gamblers on Interstate 95, taking them from the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut all the way to Chinatown in Manhattan. They were just feet away from the sign reading “Welcome to the Bronx” when the bus struck a gaurd rail that caused it to topple over. A signpost opened the top of the bus like a sardine can, peeling it away, and the bus continued to slide down a hill before finally stopping. The injuries at the scene were horrific: thirteen people died immediately, two died ay hospital and fifteen others were hurt. Assistant District Attorney Gary Weil described some of the injuries, speaking of how one man had his ear ripped off, others broke bones, and one of the men “put his arms over his head to protect his head, and both arms were ripped off.”
Weil argues that the driver had been a professional for too many years to receive any pardon or give any excuses for his actions. “This crime didn’t have to happen,” he said. “This is not a driver who maybe gets too little sleep. This is a professional, responsible bus operator.”
Meanwhile, Williams is pleading not guilty to manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, saying that he was not fatigued and that it was instead a tractor trailer cutting him off that caused him to swerve. His bail was set at $250,000, which his family could not post, so currently he is staying in Rikers Island. The National Transportation Board did not suggest that Williams had fallen asleep, but did claim that the most likely cause of the accident was a combination of driver fatigue with a bus company that did not take safety seriously enough.
Fifteen of those Chinese passengers will never play slot machine games again, and the general feeling is that someone must be held responsible for their deaths. Investigators could find no evidence of the tractor trailer having been on the road.