The driver of the charter bus that crashed on Mother's Day, which killed 22 people on their way to a Mississippi casino, died of heart failure over the weekend, officials said Monday.
The death of 46-year-old Frank Bedell, who had a history of congestive heart disease and kidney problems, means no criminal charges will be filed in the case.
Because investigators never interviewed Bedell, authorities may never know whether his health problems, or history of illegal drug use, contributed to the crash. Authorities said Bedell had previously lost two bus-driving jobs because he used marijuana, had failed a test for cocaine, and was undergoing dialysis. In addition, tests found traces of marijuana in Bedell's blood after the crash.
Bedell collapsed while talking on the telephone Sunday at his home in Algiers, said Charity Hospital spokesman Jerry Romig. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital. Doctors tried to revive Bedell for about half an hour, but he was pronounced dead at 9:11 p.m.
Police last week sent their 600-page report on the accident to prosecutors, but officials said Monday that Bedell was the only target of the investigation.
"That means we don't have a case anymore," said Zully Jimenez, a spokeswoman for Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick.
Now that there is no possibility of prosecuting Bedell, police said they would probably release copies of the accident report.
Bedell had been hospitalized for a month following the May 5 crash. He was sent to West Jefferson Medical Center for kidney treatment before returning home, Romig said.
He never spoke to investigators about the crash but told his lawyer, Jay Zainey, that he was trying to avoid a car that cut in front of him when he lost control of the bus. At least one other witness reported seeing a car swerve in front of the bus, but investigators said they were not sure the reports were credible.
Bedell had a heart condition that should have prevented him from keeping his commercial driver's license, officials said. And about 12 hours before the crash, Bedell received treatment in a hospital emergency room for dehydration and extremely low blood pressure
The crash occurred on Interstate 610 in New Orleans as the bus headed to the Mississippi's Gulf Coast on a casino day trip. Most of the passengers who died were elderly women from the LaPlace area, and Mayor Marc Morial said it was the worst vehicular accident in New Orleans history.
The NTSB plans to issue a preliminary report on the crash within several months. A second report by the agency that makes conclusions about the cause and ways to avoid similar crashes will be released later.