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Bus driver in NY crash that killed 15 said to be indicted for manslaughter

NYC bus accident
Bus crash on March 12, 2011. AP Photo/WABC-TV 7

(CBS/AP) NEW YORK - The driver of a tour bus that crashed on a New York City highway in March, killing 15 people, has been indicted on criminal charges, a law enforcement official says.

Driver Ophadell Williams of Brooklyn, 40, has been indicted on several counts of manslaughter, said a law enforcement official. The indictment has not been made public and the official spoke to The Associated Press Thursday on condition of anonymity.

The World Wide Travel bus ran off Interstate 95 at daybreak on March 12 as it was returning to Manhattan's Chinatown from an overnight trip to the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, Conn. The crash killed 15 people that were mostly Chinese men and women over the age of 40 who were regulars at casinos. Williams has claimed he was alert and the bus was clipped by a tractor-trailer, but federal regulators found no evidence the bus was clipped. 

A report by the National Transportation Safety Board said the bus veered to the right, crossed the shoulder, hit a barrier and traveled 480 feet as it fell over. It then slid into a vertical sign support that sheared through the bus at the window line.

Williams has previously served over two years for manslaughter in connection to a 1990 stabbing, according to state correction records. He also served about three years , from 1998 to 2002, for grand larceny for removing an $83,905 check from a Police Athletic League fund.

He also was arrested by New York City police on June 4, 2003, for driving with a suspended license and for possession of three police radios. In 1987, he was arrested on charges of trying to get on public transportation without paying.

One of William's lawyers, Sean H. Rooney, said a prosecutor notified him on Wednesday that his client had been indicted but was not informed of the charges because the indictment was still sealed, The New York Times reports. According to the Times, Rooney says Williams plans to turn himself in on Thursday.

New York state has stepped up inspections of tour buses since the crash and dozens of buses have been taken out of service. 

About 30,000 Chinese New Yorkers per week board discount buses that take them from Chinatown to casinos outside the city.

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