14 die in grisly N.Y.C. tour bus accident

Emergency personnel investigate the scene of a bus crash on Interstate-95 in the Bronx borough of New York Saturday, March 12, 2011. At least thirteen people died when the bus, returning to New York from a casino in Connecticut, flipped onto its side and was sliced in half by the support pole for a large sign. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Bill Kostroun

NEW YORK - The crash of a bus carrying casino patrons on the outskirts of New York City killed at least 14 people Saturday.

CBS News correspondent Jay Dow reports that veteran New York City police officers called it the most horrific accident they've ever seen.

State police Maj. Micheal Kopy said at a news conference Saturday night that the crash was being handled "as if it is a criminal investigation."

"It will take a long period of time to determine what, if any, criminal acts may have occurred here," he said.

He identified the driver as Ophadel Williams, 40, of Brooklyn, New York, whom he said was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Kopy said blood had been drawn from the driver for analysis and that state police were working with authorities in Connecticut and Mohegan Sun officials to determine what the driver's activities were before the accident.

The mangled tour bus - packed with passengers returning from a Connecticut casino lost control as it avoided a tractor trailer at the New York City border, headed for Chinatown in Lower Manhattan. The tractor trailer driver kept going. Meanwhile the tour bus eventually rolled onto its right side. Its roof was sheared off by an exit sign pole.

"In an effort to avoid that activity, the bus driver swerves all over to the right, he strikes the guardrail (and) the bus goes down along the guardrail," said NYC Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

Kelly said police were still looking for the truck, which did not stop after the crash. He said the truck was in a lane to the bus' left, although it was unclear whether the two vehicles touched.

Kelly said both the bus and the rig were moving at "a significant rate of speed."

State police said they were interviewing the driver of a tractor-trailer that was in the area at the time of the crash. They said the trailer had been located on Long Island and the tractor was found in Westchester County. Both were being inspected in Farmingdale, on Long Island.

The bus, a 1999 Prevost, was being inspected at state police barracks.

Thirteen people died at the site of the accident in what firefighters called a gruesome scene. At least one other person died later at hospital from injuries.

The other 18 bus passengers and the bus driver all suffered injuries and were taken to the hospital.

"A majority of the occupants of the bus got pushed forward into the bus - to the forward third of the bus, including some of the fatalities," said New York Fire Department Chief Edward Kilduff.

The New York City Fire Department told CBS News that the bus crashed just before 6:00 a.m. in the southbound lanes of I-95. Southbound traffic along I-95 was stopped for hours in order to begin the accident investigation, which will include federal assistance from the NTSB.

Chung Ninh, 59, told The New York Times and NY1 News that he had been asleep in his seat, then suddenly found himself hanging upside down from his seat belt, surrounded by the dead and screaming, according to the Associated Press. One man bled from a severed arm.

He said when he tried to help one bloodied woman, the driver told him to stop, because she was dead, the AP reports. "Forget this one. Help another one," he said.

Ninh said he and other passengers who were able climbed out through a skylight, the AP reports.