- Associated Press - Sunday, March 13, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) — Passengers and witnesses to a New Yorkbus crash that killed 14 people are contradicting the driver’s story that he was clipped by a tractor-trailer before the accident, a law-enforcement source said Sunday.

Passengers said driver Ophadell Williams swerved at times to the right for no reason before sliding off the road at dawn on Saturday and into a sign pole, the source told the Associated Press.

The official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the probe and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

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.

Mr. Williams remained hospitalized in serious condition Sunday and has not commented publicly.

Mr. Williams told police that a tractor-trailer clipped his World Wide Tours bus just as it crossed the New York City line on a trip from the Mohegan Sun casino in southeastern Connecticut. The passengers were on a quick overnight trip to the casino and were returning to New York’s Chinatown.

Capt. Matthew Galvin of the New York Police Department’s Emergency Service Unit was one of the first rescuers on the scene. He said when officers clambered into the wreckage, they found “bodies everywhere.”

As many as 20 passengers were treated at area hospitals. 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.

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.

The crash happened at 5:35 a.m. Saturday, with some of the 31 passengers still asleep. The bus scraped along the guard rail 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. Most people aboard were hurled to the front of the bus on impact, said Chief Edward Kilduff of the Fire Department of New York.

The southbound lanes of the highway were closed for hours while emergency workers tended to survivors and removed bodies.

State police Maj. Michael Kopy said at a news conference Saturday night in Hawthorne, N.Y., that the crash was being handled as a criminal investigation.

“It will take a long period of time to determine what, if any, criminal acts may have occurred here,” he said.

Maj. Kopy said police had received reports from witnesses that the bus driver had been speeding on the interstate, where the limit is 55 mph.

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