The private coach bus that slammed into an MTA bus at a busy Queens intersection Monday morning, killing three people and injuring 16 others, was going roughly double the speed limit at the moment of impact, a preliminary investigation by federal authorities has revealed.
Surveillance video shows the Dahlia bus barreling through a red light on Northern Boulevard and smashing into the Q20 bus at Main Street: an NTSB official said at a news conference Tuesday that preliminary information indicates it was going about 54 to 62 mph in a 30 mph zone.
NTSB investigators will be on the scene about 6 to 10 days to find out how and why the crash happened. By Tuesday afternoon, investigators had obtained the coach bus driver's log book and his toxicology tests, although nothing preliminarily suggests he was under the influence. They'll also be evaluating the black boxes on the bus, as well as the bus itself, which was only about two years old.
The NTSB officials said the coach bus driver, Raymond Mong, was properly licensed with a medical certificate.
Three people were killed in the crash: the driver of the Dahlia bus, 49-year-old Raymond Mong; a passenger on the Q20 bus, 55-year-old Gregoy Liljefors; and a pedestrian on the sidewalk, 68-year-old Henry Wdowiak, a former pilot in the Polish military who was walking to his job as a janitor at a Flushing realty company.
Sixteen people were initially reported injured in the crash. By Tuesday afternoon, five patients remained at New York-Presbyterian Queens Hospital -- three in critical condition, one in fair condition and another in good condition.
The I-Team learned Monday that Mong was fired from his job as a New York City bus driver after a April 10, 2015, crash on Interstate 95 near East Haven, Connecticut. According to a police report, Mong was behind the wheel of a 2002 Honda Accord that slammed into a Chevy Tahoe on an exit ramp, causing the SUV to bump into a Volkswagen Jetta.
Mong allegedly drove off after the crash, according to the report; state troopers found the man afterward and booked him on a bevy of charges including driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, leaving the scene of an accident and following too closely.
It's not clear if Mong was convicted of the charges; he was fired the year of the crash with cause, according to the MTA.
Now New York City Council transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez is calling for stricter regulations of private bus companies -- and properly vetting drivers, first and foremost.
"It's unfortunate that it takes crashes that we get to know the records of those drivers," he said Tuesday, adding that he will introduce legislation where the charter buses that get DOT permits must be compiled in a yearly report to the council.
According to federal records, Dahlia drivers have been cited for at least eight safety violations, including failing to obey a traffic signals, speeding and unlawful parking in the roadway in the last year.
One of the company's buses was also involved in a February 2016 crash that left one person dead and 36 others. The bus was en route from Manhattan to the Mohegan Sun casino in eastern Connecticut when it overturned on a snow-covered Interstate 95 east of New Haven.
The company also owned a bus involved in a fatal 2003 crash on the Garden State Parkway. In that instance, the bus was heading from Manhattan's Chinatown to Atlantic City, again on a snowy day, when it slipped off the highway and overturned. Two people were killed and more than two dozen others were hurt.
The company's troubled history led U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, who represents the part of Queens where the buses crashed on Tuesday, to question why Dahlia is still in business.
"We will definitely take a look at that," she said. "And if there's more stringent standards that need to be put in place, we'll work with the city and the state."
The company has not responded to News 4's requests for comment, and no one answered the door at Dahlia CEO Christine Chiang's home Tuesday.