A Chinatown bus driver who was accused of drifting to sleep behind the wheel of the tour bus he was operating was found not guilty in court Friday. Ophadell Williams, 41, was cleared of charges including 53 counts of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and other related charges.
The conclusion of the ordeal took more than a year to accomplish, with Williams finally free after being jailed in September 2011, reports DNAinfo.
The crash took place in the Bronx on I-95 in March of 2011. Williams was driving the bus back to its Chinatown location after a casino trip to the nearby Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. The vehicle struck a guardrail, causing it to flip and slam directly into a signpost. The images of the bus literally being ripped apart by the pole highlighted how much force was generated from such an impact. 15 people were killed that day, with seven others severely injured. Some patrons had to endure amputations, lacerations and other injuries.
According to a New York Times report, Williams appeared remorseful at today’s hearing, wiping away tears and hanging his head. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the accident happened because Williams had not gotten adequate rest and poor management by the operating company. While the prosecution aimed their focus on Williams’ reported sleep deprivation over the course of the three-month trial, his defense team contended that a tractor trailer cut him off and that the accident happened as he swerved to avoid contact.
The jury had been deliberating since November 27, and the actual verdict was made yesterday. It was delayed because a juror had to leave early Thursday afternoon.