A charter bus owned by Dahlia Travel and Tours, a company with offices in Fresh Meadows, Flushing and Corona, spun off the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey Friday en route from Manhattan's Chinatown to Atlantic City, killing two passengers and injuring 28.
Although published reports said an unidentified driver called the police minutes before the bus skidded off the parkway at 11:43 a.m. and flipped over on a snowy slope to report that it was speeding and weaving in traffic, a member of the New Jersey state police Tuesday denied that authorities had received such a call.
"There's no 911 phone call that we're aware of at this point," said Lt. Al Dellafave in West Trenton, N.J.
The bus crashed in Manahawkin about 80 miles south of New York City. No information on where the passengers were from was released by authorities.
After being questioned by the police, the driver of the bus, Guang Ming Li, 38, of Manhattan, who was unhurt, was charged with careless driving, a motor vehicle summons that carries a small fine and adds two points to Li's driving record, said Dellafave. All records were turned over to the Ocean County, N.J. prosecutor's office.
"The driver said he wasn't speeding. He said the road was slippery because it was snowing," said a representative of Dahlia Travel and Tour's Corona office who would not identify herself. "He's a good driver. He's been driving with us for two to three years."
The representative said the company was waiting to receive police reports about the accident before deciding whether or not to take any action involving Li.
Dahlia Travel and Tours operates about 20 buses every day from Manhattan's Chinatown to Atlantic City, said the representative.
Other representatives who answered phones at Dahlia Travel and Tour's Corona and Flushing offices would not elaborate on what kind of tour packages or bus services the company sells.
The company's offices are located at 71-35 169th St. in Fresh Meadows, 138-35 Elder Ave., Apt. 9F in Flushing, and 127-27 34th Ave. in Corona.
At the time of the accident, there were about 8 inches of snow on the ground in the area where the accident occurred. Timothy McDonough, the executive director of the New Jersey Highway Authority, which is responsible for the parkway, said it was not clear whether the weather was a factor in the accident.
"I was just there, and the road was wet but completely clear of snow and ice. Cars were going pretty much at the speed limit," McDonough told the Daily News shortly after the accident.
According to Peter Graves, a spokesman for the New York State Department of Transportation, the bus that flipped over was inspected in May and November of last year and passed both times.
Out of the 32 biannual inspections done on Dahlia Travel and Tour's fleet of buses last year, six inspections, or 19 percent failed, said Graves. The state average for inspections failures, which can be due to problems ranging from broken taillights to bad brakes, is 9.5 percent.
"Dahlia has a small fleet. They may not be our best carrier, but they're not our worst," said Graves.
After the accident, passengers on the bus, which was about 30 miles short of its destination, the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, were taken to nearby hospitals for treatment, said authorities. Helicopter transportation was unavailable due to the inclement weather.
Chinese-speaking interpreters were taken to hospitals to aid in treatment of the victims, who were described as mostly middle-aged to older Asians.
Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 1-718-229-0300, ext. 155.
©2003 Community News Group
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