NEW YORK (CBS/AP) — The death toll in a horrific bus accident on a New York highway rose to 14 after Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said a passenger who had initially survived the 5:30 a.m. wreck in the Bronx died at a hospital Saturday afternoon.
Doctors were still working to save the lives of other, gravely injured passengers.
Authorities say there were about 32 people aboard the bus when it overturned on Interstate 95 as it was returning to Manhattan’s Chinatown from the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut.
The driver, who survived, told police he lost control after being clipped by a tractor trailer. Police began a hunt for the truck, which did not stop after the crash, New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said.
The wreck left a scene of carnage and closed the southbound side of Interstate-95 for hours while emergency workers attended to critically injured survivors and removed bodies.
In addition to the fatalities, at least seven other passengers were critically hurt, according to a NYPD spokesman. Ten others were being treated at area hospitals.
According to the driver, the bus was struck from behind as it entered the city, Browne said. The bus began swerving, toppled and crashed into the support post for a highway sign indicating the exit for the Hutchinson Parkway.
The pole entered through the front window, then sheared the bus from front to back along the window line, cutting like a knife through the seating area and peeling the roof off all the way to the back tires.
Traffic was also closed on the northbound side of the highway after the crash, but was moving again by mid-morning.
Limo driver Homer Martinez, 56, of Danbury, Conn. happened on the scene just moments after the wreck and saw other drivers sprinting from their cars to see if they could assist the injured.
He said they were horrified by what they found. “People were saying, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God,’ holding their hands on their heads,” Martinez said. “I saw people telling other people not to go there, ‘You don’t want to see this.”‘
Firefighters and medics were on the scene quickly, running to the vehicle with bags and stretchers, he said.
“I see a lot of accidents. I’ve even seen accidents happen. But I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Martinez.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending a team of investigators.
After the crash, firefighters took out seats and cut through the bus roof to reach a handful of passengers pinned in the wreckage.
Kilduff called it “a very difficult operation.” Many of the passengers on the bus were residents of Manhattan’s Chinatown. They ranged in age from 20 to 50, officials said.
Fifteen were being treated at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx. A hospital spokeswoman, Barbara DeIorio, said some of the injuries were serious, but she had no immediate information on how many were gravely hurt. Another five patients were taken to St. Barnabas Hospital, where two were on life support, breathing with the assistance of machines.”We’ve had skull fractures, rib fractures … internal bleeding, we’ve had lung contusions,” said Dr. Ernest Patti, senior attending physician at St. Barnabas.
The bus driver was “awake and conscious,” Patti said.
The bus, operated by the charter company World Wide Tours. The bus was one of scores that travel daily between Manhattan’s Chinatown and the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos in northeastern Connecticut. Aside from the casinos, World Wide Tours also provides service from Manhattan to Cambridge, Mass. and Newton, Mass.
World Wide Travel said it in a statement that the company was “heartbroken.”
“We are a family owned company and realize words cannot begin to express our sorrow to the families of those who lost their lives or were injured in this tragic accident. Our thoughts and prayers are with them,” it said.
The company said it was cooperating with investigators.
Mohegan Sun has estimated that a fifth of its business comes from Asian spending and caters to Chinese-American gamblers; its website has a Chinese-language section offering gaming and bus promotions.
Foxwoods is a major destination for Asian-American gamblers and has an Asian gaming room.
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