Bronx Bus Crash Driver Speaks for First Time

Ophadell Williams tells NBC New York he is "having a difficult time."

By Shimon Prokupecz and Jonathan Dienst
|  Wednesday, Mar 30, 2011  |  Updated 3:52 PM EDT
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The driver who was at the wheel of the bus that crashed on I-95, killing 15 people, spoke publicly for the first time Monday, saying he is Jonathan Dienst reports." />

The driver who was at the wheel of the bus that crashed on I-95, killing 15 people, spoke publicly for the first time Monday, saying he is "hurt" and "having a difficult time." Jonathan Dienst reports.

The driver who was at the wheel of the bus that crashed on I-95, killing 15 people, spoke publicly for the first time, saying he is "hurt" and "having a difficult time."

Ophadell Williams, with lawyers by his side, stepped outside his home Monday to speak to NBC New York briefly about the March 12 crash in the Bronx.

"I am having a difficult time breathing," Williams said.

"I am really hurt about the whole situation," he added, before choking up and heading back inside.

His wife Holly Williams said the crash was "a tragic thing for all parties."

"The families of the victims are hurting," she said. "We are all hurting together."

Williams was driving the World Wide Tours bus from a Connecticut casino to Chinatown when it crashed into a highway sign post, killing 15 passengers and injuring 18 others.

Sean Rooney, an attorney for Williams, told NBC New York that Williams has had difficulty sleeping since the accident, and is "deeply sorry for the loss of life." He also said Williams helped evacuate injured passengers from the bus after it crashed.

Williams has claimed a truck clipped his bus, causing the early-morning accident.

Investigators have said they are looking into whether he was asleep or distracted at the wheel; some passengers told officials that the bus was drifting just before it slammed into the pole, which sliced through the bus like a knife.

Last week, investigators also said Williams' driving privileges had been suspended from past infractions he received under an alias, Eric Williams.

Rooney also said Williams was not aware that his driving privileges had been revoked. 

"He never misled anybody," Rooney said. "He fully believed he had a right to drive." 

Another Williams lawyer, Howard Lee, said Williams used the name Eric, which is what his mother called him, in one traffic stop when he was a teenager, but provided his correct home address and other information.

"It appears that the authorities are not intent in fact-finding and are more interested in assigning blame," Lee said.  "And it appears he is an easy target. "

Attorney said a review of DMV records will show all past tickets have been dismissed.  Although lawyers admit some of the tickets may have been disposed of in just the last week - after the crash - and after Williams went to court to address them.  The lawyers said the tickets were dismissed in part because police officers who issued the tickets back when Williams was 16 and 19 years old apparently never showed up for court at the time the tickets were first issued.  

Williams has not been charged in connection with the crash. He met with NTSB investigators last week for several hours without an attorney.  His lawyers said Williams feels he has nothing to hide. 

Family members of the victims gathered at the crash site on southbound I-95 Saturday, one week after the tragedy.

Buddhist monks led prayers among the tearful group, and sprinkled water to purify the site.
 

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