The driver of a bus that crashed on the New Jersey Turnpike, killing him and another passenger, is being hailed as a hero by a rider who survived the accident.
Mirek Janiak told NBC New York that Wei Wang, who died in Monday's night's crash, calmly handled the bus carrying 43 people and may have even saved lives.
"He didn't slam the brakes, he didn't swerve it -- it would have flipped over," Janiak said in an exclusive telephone interview. "I believe it would have been much worse."
The deadly crash came just days after a bus carrying 31 passengers slid into a highway signpost on I-95 in the Bronx, killing 15 people.
In Monday's crash on the turnpike, the 50-year-old driver, of Forest Hills, Queens, was ejected through the front windshield and landed about 15 feet from the bus, state police said. He died on the scene.
Passenger Troy Nguyen, 20, of Pennsylvania, was partially ejected through a driver's side window.
An off-duty firefighter and other troopers managed to pull Nguyen back in through the window and stabilize him until medics arrived, but he later died of head injuries at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick, state police said.
A total of 43 people, including 11-year-old twins and a 2-year-old boy, were on the bus at the time of the accident, authorities said. Each of the 41 survivors suffered some type of injury, state police said.
Two passengers, 50-year-old Louis Pierre, of Philadelphia, and David Choi, 70, of Landsdale, Pa., remained in critical condition at RWJ Tuesday morning. Both are believed to have been sitting near the rear of the bus. The remaining surviving passengers were not seriously injured.
The cause of the crash has not yet been determined.
New Jersey State Police said the bus veered off the left side of the southbound truck lanes and traveled along a grassy median between the southbound lanes before striking a concrete overpass support below the on ramp to the southbound lanes from Exit 9.
State police say preliminary evidence suggests that the front-end impact caused the rear of the bus to come off the ground and strike the bottom of the overpass.
The bus then moved across all three lanes of the southbound outer roadway and hit a dirt embankment on the right side of the highway with its front end. The back of the bus stayed in the right lane.
Janiak told NBC New York he believes the accident was caused by a blown tire.
He described hearing a "loud bump" like a tire explosion, and then feeling the bus swerve before driver Wang brought it under limited control. After the bus came to a stop, he heard screams.
Janiak had bumps and bruises and was released from the hospital Tuesday morning.
The 1999 Van Hool bus was operated by Super Luxury Tours, Inc. of Wilkes Barre, Pa. It had left the Chinatown section of Manhattan and was heading to Philadelphia, Pa.
Over the last two years, the company has racked up violations for speeding, improper passing, failure to maintain driver logs and a number of maintenance-related problems for its buses, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Efforts to contact the company were unsuccessful Monday night.
Police will continue to examine the bus, which has been impounded, as part of their ongoing investigation.
They will also gather physical evidence and review data that may have been recorded on the bus' electronics. Pieces of a tire have been removed to determine when in the sequence of events that tire blew out, state police said.
The medical examiner's office will perform an autopsy to determine whether the driver suffered any medical issue prior to the crash. Officials cautioned the crash investigation could take several weeks.
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