NY sting puts 14 tour buses off road
Sunday, March 20, 2011
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A sting operation by New York state transportation investigators and law enforcement a week after a horrific fatal tour bus crash included a single stop in Manhattan in which all 14 tour buses pulled over were ordered off the road, state officials said Saturday.
State investigators reported nine “major issues” Friday night with the drivers, including lack of an updated log book required to show how long a driver has been behind the wheel, an official familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press. The state Department of Transportation investigators found 10 major vehicle issues and 40 minor infractions, the official said.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the continuing sting operation involving police statewide.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed the operation at DOT checkpoints as part of his order to investigate the Bronx crash of the tour bus, which was serving casino customers, while stepping up enforcement of all tour buses statewide.
State Department of Transportation spokeswoman Deb Rausch confirmed to the AP that the 14 buses stopped Friday were put out of service because of various violations against the driver and concerns about the safety of the buses.
“This is quite extraordinary,” she said.
New York City police, which participated in the sting, reported that 54 criminal summonses were issued Friday night in Manhattan, with eight buses towed away because of safety violations. Other buses ordered out of service were driven away by qualified drivers.
There was no data immediately available on the other checkpoints elsewhere in New York City or the rest of the state.
Rausch said the stepped up enforcement on top of the 160,000 bus inspections the state does annually will continue through March 30.
On Saturday, relatives of the passengers who died in the crash held a Buddhist ceremony at the accident site. A lane of Interstate 95 was closed for about an hour and a bell tolled at the ceremony.
The bus was returning March 12 to Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood from an overnight trip to a Connecticut casino when it tipped over and was sliced by a pole along the road.
Cuomo has also directed the state inspector general to investigate the crash, along with state police and the Bronx district attorney’s office. DMV records turned over in that case indicate that the bus driver used aliases under which his driving privileges were suspended, so he shouldn’t have been behind the wheel.