Two people were killed and 28 were
injured when a speeding bus ferrying gamblers from Chinatown to Atlantic City flipped over
on the snow-slicked Garden State Parkway yesterday, officials said.
Witnesses reported that the bus driver, Guang Ming Li, was
weaving in and out of traffic just before the crash - and one driver called 911 to say the
coach was traveling too fast.
"It looks like he was trying to get somewhere in a
hurry, going into and out of traffic inappropriately," said Timothy McDonough,
executive director of the New Jersey Highway Authority.
Li, 38, was the only person on the bus not injured.
Although it was snowing in New Jersey, McDonough said the
storm didn't cause the accident - the latest in a string of crashes involving casino-bound
"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," he
The bus, operated by Flushing-based Dahlia Travel &
Tours, picked up 30 passengers in Chinatown about 9:30 a.m. and headed for the Trump Taj
Mahal Casino Resort, police said.
Near the town of Stafford, the bus suddenly careened off
the highway and flipped on its side. Some passengers crawled out through a roof hatch.
The two passengers who died were not identified because
their families hadn't been notified. One had been thrown through a window and pinned under
the bus, cops said.
Because bad weather kept helicopters grounded, it took
about an hour to rescue all the passengers and take them to four nearby hospitals.
Some were in serious condition, with head injuries and
broken bones, but none of the injuries was considered life-threatening, hospital officials
Word of the crash spread quickly through Chinatown.
"Oh my god! It's so sad. What a tragedy," said
Annie Zhen, watching gamblers board and get off casino buses that stop in front of her
jewelry shop on Canal St.
"This is the seventh day after the Chinese New Year.
It's supposed to be happy. It's the life day."
Li, who lives in Chinatown, was being grilled by New
Jersey State Police about the crash. The investigation was moving slowly because Li speaks
little English, officials said.
He has a valid driver's license and one recent violation
on his record - failing to obey a traffic signal in upstate Steuben County in November
2000, officials said.
Dahlia Travel, which had no comment on the accident, has a
spotty inspection record, state Transportation Department spokeswoman Jennifer Post said.
In the last year, six of its 32 buses presented for
inspection have flunked and been taken out of service. Records showed 10 major defects,
including six problems with brakes.
Post said the bus involved in the crash was a 2002 model
that had passed inspection twice, most recently in November.
Hours after the accident, busloads of people were still
leaving Chinatown for Atlantic City.
"I'm not worried. There are easily a dozen buses
leaving Chinatown every day," said Stanley Lui, 50, a computer programmer from
Brooklyn. "It's a terrible shame, but it's happened before."