Tire blowout eyed in latest fatal tour bus crash

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 18, 2011 5:33 PM

By Dan Wiessner

HUDSON, New York (Reuters) - A bus carrying Indian tourists on a sightseeing trip to Niagara Falls blew a tire, spun out of control and careened down a wooded embankment, killing two women on board, police said on Monday.

None of the 36 bus passengers wore a seatbelt but the driver did, police said.

Killed in the crash were Sakina Kiazar, 52, of New Delhi, and another Indian woman, 66, whose name was withheld pending notification of her family. They were seated directly behind the driver.

The driver, John Dinardo, Jr., 58, of Rochester, and the other 34 passengers were injured and taken to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.

Twenty remained hospitalized Monday afternoon, three in guarded condition, with injuries including fractures, head wounds and internal bleeding, according to Dr. Michael Kamali, chairman of emergency medicine.

The bus, owned by Bedore Tours of North Tonawanda, was headed from Washington, D.C. to Niagara Falls on Sunday afternoon when it crashed on Interstate 390 about 55 miles southeast of Rochester. The tour originated in New York City on Saturday.

A preliminary investigation found one of the front tires blew, causing the driver to lose control, police said. The bus then flipped over and skidded down a wooded median dividing the highway's northbound and southbound lanes.

State transportation officials said at a news conference the driver has a valid driver's license and no criminal history.

"There is no evidence of any excess speed, of any alcohol, of any driver fatigue or any other violation," State Police Superintendent Joseph D'Amico told reporters.

He said the 2007 model bus was last inspected on June 28.

Speaking for Bedore, Dan Ronan of the American Bus Association said in a statement the tires on the bus were only about two months old. He also said Bedore recently received the highest possible safety rating from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

"We are doing all we can to cooperate with the authorities to find the cause of this accident," he said.

The accident was the most recent in a series of fatal crashes involving tour buses in the region.

In late June, a tour bus driver was killed and several passengers injured when a bus traveling to New Jersey from Kentucky rear-ended a tractor trailer on the Pennsylvania Turnpike east of Pittsburgh.

Four people were killed in May when the driver of a Sky Express bus headed to New York City fell asleep and the bus crashed in Virginia. The company was found to have dozens of past violations for fatigued driving.

In March, 15 people were killed when a bus returning from a Connecticut casino veered off a highway in New York City. The driver of that bus had a suspended license and used a false alias on a subsequent license application, prompting Governor Andrew Cuomo to launch a statewide investigation that has so far yielded at least 13 arrests.

Two days later two people, including the driver, were killed in a bus crash on a New Jersey highway.

(Reporting by Dan Wiessner; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Peter Bohan)