One-on-one with acquitted bus driver in Bronx crash

December 10, 2012 3:07:05 PM PST
Eyewitness News investigative reporter Sarah Wallace spoke one-on-one with the bus driver who was found not guilty of 15 counts of manslaughter.

Early on, Ophadell Williams spoke with investigators, but he's never given his version of what happened publicly until now.

He spoke at length with Eyewitness News about the accident, the aftermath and the victims.

"Do you think you were to blame for the accident?" Wallace asked.

"Not at all, not at all," Ophadell Williams said.

Williams says he thinks of the victims of the I-95 bus crash every day, but believes he did nothing wrong, nothing that contributed to that horrific accident in March of last year when a casino bus he was driving crashed, killing 15 and injuring several others.

"You say to yourself, should I have passed with them? Everyday my heart goes out to them," Williams said.

Williams, who maintains to this day that his bus was cut off by a tractor trailer, was charged with 54 felony counts, including manslaughter. Prosecutors claimed he was so sleep deprived; he should never have been behind the wheel.

"You weren't too tired?" Wallace asked.

"I was not too tired or I would have stayed home," Williams said.

"They also said you were speeding," Wallace said.

"I was not speeding," Williams said.

"What about going 78 miles at the time of the accident?" Wallace asked.

"I don't think that bus goes that fast," Williams said.

"So that was a mistake?" Wallace asked.

"Yes," Williams said.

Last Friday, a jury found Williams not guilty of all the charges related to the accident and he walked out of court, a free man.

"What do you want people to know about you?" Wallace asked.

"I'm not this monster driver. I was a bus driver who was doing my job," Williams said.

"Investigators say you didn't put on the brakes," Wallace said.

"I know I slammed on the brakes," Williams said.

"Was there a tractor trailer that cut you off?" Wallace asked.

"Yes there was," Williams said, "The bus went straight over, it wasn't like it rolled a guard rail, it went straight over and slid and I remember being underneath the bus in the seat, but underneath it and the bus is dragging me."

Williams says even though he was badly hurt, his first thought was to save his passengers.

"I started pulling people out, bringing people out, putting them on the side of the road and then going back in," Williams said.

Williams claims he was stunned when prosecutors later charged him with being criminally responsible for the deaths of 15 passengers who died and the injuries of several others.

Prosecutors had claimed Williams was speeding and sleep deprived. He denies it.

"I really feel that among other things he was utilized as a legal guinea pig so to speak," said Patrick Bruno, attorney.

"I believe that I took the best actions that I could do when driving this bus," Williams said.

"So you wouldn't do anything differently?" Wallace asked.

"I wouldn't have did anything different, no," Williams said.

When the jury found Williams not guilty of 54 felony charges related to the accident, that's not what he thought he heard the foreperson say, at first.

"You thought she said guilty." Wallace said.

"When they were saying the verdict, I played the whole thing over again, I played the accident over again in my mind," Williams said.

Williams is grateful to the jury for seeing through the emotion of the case and he says he's taking one day at a time.

"What's your wish?" Wallace asked

"I would drive a bus again, I would drive a bus again," Williams said.

"Do you think you will be able to?" Wallace asked.

"Hopefully," Williams said.

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