Tour bus bound for Flushing crashes upstate and injures 20

By Joe Anuta

The driver who crashed a tour bus shuttling gamblers from a Connecticut casino to Flushing last week may be in trouble with the feds for not being able to speak English, according to state police.

Shortly after 6 a.m. July 4, the driver of a bus belonging to Star Tag Inc. sideswiped the left barrier of Interstate 95 near New Rochelle, according to State Trooper Robert Sanders, a commercial vehicle enforcement officer based in the area.

The driver over-corrected his mistake and then sent the bus reeling into the right-side barrier, Sanders said. The bus eventually ran up a slight embankment, where the driver leapt out of the vehicle, leaving the roughly 40 passengers inside, according to police.

“He didn’t even bother to put on the parking brake,” Sanders said.

The bus rolled backward and lodged itself onto the barrier, and when state troopers arrived. they found the driver outside of the bus and not able to understand English, while more than 20 passengers were injured and taken to various hospitals.

Because the man could not communicate with officers, he may have violated a federal law, which states that anyone with a commercial driver’s license needs to be able to comprehend highway signs written in English and any instructions given by a law enforcement official.

But compounding this, according to Sanders, is the fact that New York offers its commercial driver’s license test in multiple languages.

“There may be a contradiction between federal law and New York state’s policy of giving tests,” he said.

The U.S. and state Departments of Transportation are investigating the cause of the crash along with state law enforcement, and the driver’s activities prior to hopping behind the wheel are being analyzed as well.

The bus was ending a journey from Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut. A spokeswoman from the casino said it has not cut business ties with Star Tag and that it would not make any decisions until the investigation is complete.

The accident added another blemish on the increasingly scrutinized industry of tour buses.

This particular bus company, based in the largely Chinese enclave of Sunset Park in Brooklyn, has four violations on file with the federal DOT for speeding and following too closely, although none for fatigued drivers.

That was the cause of a gruesome bus accident in March last year, when a tour bus belonging to World Wide Tours bound for Manhattan overturned on Interstate 95 in the Bronx and was ripped apart by a light pole.

Fourteen people were killed and 19 were injured, and in the aftermath Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed a crackdown on the industry, shutting down eight carriers in the state.

About a month and a half ago, federal officials, citing safety concerns, shuttered 26 bus companies that haul passengers for bottom barrel prices from Manhattan’s Chinatown to cities all over the East Coast.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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