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NEW YORK: A casino bus bound for Chinatown in Queens careened out of control outside New York City on Wednesday, sending 24 people to the hospital with minor injuries and recalling a collision last year that killed 15 casino-goers headed for Manhattan’s Chinatown just 2 miles (3.2 kilometres) up the road, authorities said.
It appeared the driver had been going too fast for the wet conditions, said New York State police Sgt. John Maasz. The bus company, Star Tag Inc., has received four citations for unsafe driving in the last two years and every recorded inspection resulted in vehicle maintenance violations. Most recently, in May, authorities caught one of its motor coaches going at least 15 miles per hour over the speed limit, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The bus was on an early morning route from Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut to Chinatown in Queens when it struck a center median barrier on Interstate 95 in New Rochelle, veered right over three lanes, then slid about 500 feet along an outer barrier before stopping.
Charges were not immediately filed, pending an investigation, Maasz said. Of the 24 people on board, the driver — who was ejected from the bus — was the most seriously injured. All were sent to hospitals, but none had serious injuries.
The accident happened about 2 miles (3.2 kilometres) south of the site of the March 2011 crash that killed 15 people on a bus bound for New York City’s other Chinatown — the one in Manhattan. At that time, about 30,000 Chinese New Yorkers were boarding discount buses traveling from Chinatown to casinos each week.
The bus involved in Wednesday’s crash served a similar clientele. Many of the passengers were able to communicate with police only through hospital interpreters, Maasz said. Foxwoods lists Star Tag vehicles on an online list of “Asian Buses.”
Messages left for a Foxwoods representative and for Star Tag were not immediately returned.
The crash comes about a month after government safety officials swooped down on more than two dozen curbside bus operations that mostly ferry passengers in the busy East Coast transportation corridor, closing them for safety violations in the largest single federal crackdown on the industry.
The crackdown was prompted by fatal accidents in New Jersey and Virginia last spring and the March 2011 New York crash, in which the bus flipped onto its side and struck a pole.
That crash was probably caused by the driver’s lack of sleep and a bus company that provided too little oversight, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The driver, Ophadell Williams, was charged with manslaughter and has pleaded not guilty. His attorney has said his client is not responsible for the accident.
Federal regulators shut down the bus operator, World Wide Tours of Greater New York, after that accident. -- AP