Crash Driver's Suspension Was Under Alias

State officials also announced a bus crackdown on Thursday, with checkpoints statewide.

By Jonathan Dienst and Shimon Prokupecz
|  Friday, Mar 18, 2011  |  Updated 6:41 AM EDT
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Bus Driver's Prior Arrests Come To Light

The driver of the bus that crashed on I-95, killing 15 people on its way from a Connecticut casino back to Manhattan has a criminal record that includes an arrest for driving with a suspended license and possession of three police radio scanners. Jonathan Dienst reports.

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The driver of the casino tour bus that crashed in the Bronx, killing 15 people last Saturday, was able to get a license to operate the vehicle because his past driving violations were under false names, officials said Thursday.

Even though Ophadell Williams' driving privileges were suspended for his past driving violations, that suspension was under his alias "Erik Williams" and not his real name or real driver's license, officials said. Williams used an alias several times in the past when pulled over for traffic violations, investigators said.

Meanwhile Thursday, state officials announced that 10 bus drivers were taken out of service in a statewide tour bus crackdown. Eight traffic tickets were also issued.

New York State Police and the state transportation department said 36 buses were stopped and inspected at the Champlain Border Crossing, Monticello Bus Terminal and Nassau Coliseum.

In the 10 cases of drivers taken out of service, the drivers were not allowed to operate the buses and new drivers had to complete the trip.

Authorities said additional checkpoints will be conducted in coming weeks.

In the specific case of Williams' past, it was revealed Thursday that during at least two traffic stops before he became a bus driver, Williams told police that he did not have his license on him.

It appears he was given summonses under the name Erik Williams and allowed to drive away in those cases, a source familiar with the case said.

And when those violations were never paid, driving privileges for "Erik Williams" were suspended, the source said.

Officials said at the time of the bus crash, it appears his license under his real name Ophadell Williams was in good standing.

"The information the DMV is referring for investigation includes driver license applications containing false statements about the status of his license and whether this was done to conceal the fact that he had been using multiple names and had a suspension under one of those names," said Howard Glaser, Gov. Cuomo's director of state operations.

Williams has now had his license suspended.

He was questioned by state police and federal investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board this week at the Brooklyn office of the bus company, World Wide Tours.

Williams met with authorities this week after NBC New York was first to report he has a criminal record that includes the driving arrest.

He has not been charged with any crime related to the crash and officials stress the investigation is still in its early stages. The bus crashed early Saturday as it headed back from a Connecticut casino to Manhattan's Chinatown.

Williams blew a .00 in a blood-alcohol test at the scene and voluntarily offered blood for a more precise blood alcohol test, officials said. Authorities are examining what Williams did in the 72 hours prior to the early morning crash, and have indicated the investigation could turn into a criminal matter.

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