By Mathew Murphy
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York bus crash last year that killed 15 people was caused by a driver who was severely fatigued and had a terrible driving record, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a report released on Tuesday.
The five-member board decided unanimously that driver Ophadell Williams had had little sleep for days before the accident and criticized his employer, World Wide Travel of Greater New York, for a "corporate culture that fostered indifference to passenger safety."
The NTSB has proposed tough new measures to crack down on bus operators, including fitting vehicles with devices limiting their speed and requiring companies to obtain 10 years of driving records from potential employees.
On March 12, 2011 Williams was driving 78 miles an hour in a 50-mile-an-hour zone in the city's Bronx borough when he lost control, slammed into a guard rail and flipped onto Interstate 95.
The bus, which was traveling to New York City's Chinatown from a casino in Connecticut, slid hundreds of feet into a post, and its roof was sliced off. Of the 32 passengers, 15 died and the rest suffered injuries.
Williams has been charged with manslaughter and is awaiting trial.
He told investigators he was run off the road by a semi-trailer, but the board said it found little evidence that occurred. It found Williams had a driving record with 18 driving suspensions over two decades for incidents such as failing to obey a stop sign.
It found World Wide Travel also was to blame for "lax safety oversight."
NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman said an examination of the work schedule found in the 72 hours prior to the crash, Williams would have slept no longer than three hours at a time.
"Fatigue and speed are an especially lethal combination," Hersman said.
The incident was one in a spate of fatal bus crashes in New York, New Jersey and Virginia last year.
(Editing By Ellen Wulfhorst; Desking by Christopher Wilson)