‘This accident could have been avoided’: Lawmakers in Flushing call for private bus reforms

Photos by Robert Stridiron/RHS NEWS

In the wake of a fatal two-bus crash in Flushing that left three people dead, local lawmakers are calling for changes to protect bus passengers.

Assemblyman Ron Kim and state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky have introduced a bill that would increase oversight on private bus companies operating in New York. If passed, the bill would both require the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue a new credential to those qualified to drive a private bus and order drivers to display the credential inside of the bus while on duty.

The legislation would also require the Department of Motor Vehicles to perform an annual audit of motor carriers to ensure they are in compliance with the law. Under current law, the regulation is once every three years.

A total of 16 people were reported injured in the morning rush hour crash at Northern Boulevard and Main Street on Sept. 18. A preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board last week revealed that Dahlia Group Inc. charter bus driver Raymond Mong was speeding and drove through a red light before colliding with an MTA passenger bus.

Mong — who died in the crash — was charged in 2015 with driving under the influence and evading arrest after being personally involved in a collision in Connecticut, it was also revealed.

Kim said the proposed reforms are an effort to ensure passengers boarding private buses “they aren’t putting their lives in peril.”

“With proper oversight this accident could have been avoided,” Kim said. “We need to empower riders with the information they need to make informed decisions. With these newly issued credentials, riders can be sure that their driver is properly certified, just as they would in a taxi.”

Young Lim, the wife of crash victim Sangki Kang, attended the press conference to show support for the bill.

Kang, who was sitting in the driver’s seat of one of the cars that were parked at the site of the crash, was struck by the impacted MTA bus. He sustained severe but non-life-threatening injuries and is currently going through physical therapy to recover.

“It’s horrifying to think if I had been on the street 10 seconds later and not in my car, I might not be alive today,” Kang said. “I am so thankful for all the help that Assemblyman Kim’s office has been in the wake of this accident.”

Stavisky said she is hopeful the bill would prevent a future such accident from taking place.

“We will no longer tolerate private bus companies hiring unqualified drivers and we must continue to hold them accountable,” she said.

The legislation is in committee in the New York State Assembly and Senate. If passed, it would take effect immediately.

Assemblymember Ron Kim and state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky stand with Young Lim, wife of crash victim SangKi Kang
Assemblymember Ron Kim and state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky stand with Young Lim, wife of crash victim Sangki Kang