The driver of the speeding Chinatown-bound bus that crashed on a Bronx highway and killed 15 people in March pleaded not guilty in those deaths Thursday in a case that cast a harsh light on discount-bus safety.
Ophadell Williams, 40, of Brooklyn, was charged in Bronx Supreme Court with 15 counts of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in the wreck, which happened on I-95 as the bus returned from a gambling trip to a Connecticut casino. He is being held on $250,000 bond.
Bronx Assistant District Attorney Gary Weill said Williams showed signs of sleep deprivation at the time of the crash. Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson added that the crash was "completely avoidable."
An investigation showed the bus was traveling at 78 mph — its maximum speed — less than a minute before the crash. The posted speed limit was 55 miles per hour. Investigators also found no evidence that the bus was clipped by a tractor-trailer, which Williams initially said caused the crash.
Williams, who has a record for speeding and driving without a license, is also charged with 23 counts of assault for injuries to 15 other passengers, as well as one count each of reckless driving and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.