A year and five months after a Dahlia Group motorcoach blew through a red light, slamming into a city bus and killing three commuters in Flushing, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced on Thursday that a Thermos lodged under the brakes was the likely cause of the wreck.
The report released by the federal agency on Feb. 21 determined that the destruction may not have been a reflection the operator’s spotty driving record or the company’s history of violations and included a photo with the thermos stuck under the pedals of bus.
“Investigators found no evidence that the motorcoach driver’s experience, training, route familiarity or pre-crash activities were factors in the collision. The GPS recording indicates the motorcoach driver was conscious and aware of the hazardous conditions preceding the crash but was unable to control the vehicle’s speed,” the report said. “At the scene of the crash, investigators found a metal Thermos bottle near the control pedals. The Thermos could potentially explain the metal rattling heard on the audio recording.”
Although the evidence may seem pretty convincing, the agency is cautious to draw any conclusions after listening to the recording in which the driver, Raymond Mong, was said to utter “a single-word remark as the motorcoach increases its speed.”
Investigators at the time evaluated through video surveillance that the motorcoach had increased its speed as it ran a red light at Main Street as it was moving eastbound on Northern Boulevard at 6 a.m. on Sept. 18, 2017.
The Dahlia bus collided with a Q20 bus making a right turn onto Northern between 54 and 62 miles per hour, NTSB said at the time. The Q20 bus, with 16 passengers aboard, spun and the motorcoach went through the front of the Kennedy’s Fried Chicken on the southeast corner, injuring two pedestrians and killing one.
Three people, including Mong, died in the wreck.
Dahlia, which is still in operation, became the object of public scrutiny as it was revealed that the company had about 18 violations, including seven for unsafe driving.
A look into Mong’s driving history also painted a grim description of Dalhia’s operations in which it was found that in 2015, he had been fired from the MTA as a bus driver following a Connecticut accident for which he was found guilty of DWI.
The state Department of Motor Vehicles said at the time that it was not aware Mong was still driving a bus and Dahlia had not reported to the agency they had hired him, as required by law.
For now, NTSB is filing the Thermos scenario as a “probable cause” of “the driver’s unintended acceleration of the motorcoach and inability to brake for reasons that could not be conclusively determined from the information available.”
Mong was a resident of College Point, and the report said his wife remembered him leaving the for work that day with the Thermos.