BY JAMES FARRELL
An MTA bus and charter bus collided on Northern Boulevard just after 6 a.m. on Monday, leaving three dead and 16 injured.
A pedestrian, passenger on the MTA bus and the driver of the charter bus all died as a result of the crash. The pedestrian, identified as 68-year-old Henry Wdowiak of Flushing, was pronounced dead at the scene. The charter bus driver, 49-year-old Raymond Mong of College Point, was pronounced dead at Elmhurst General Hospital. And Flushing’s Gregory Liljefors, 55, a passenger on the MTA bus, was pronounced dead at New York Presbyterian/Queens.
The charter bus, owned by Dahlia Tour and Travel, was travelling eastbound on Northern Boulevard when it collided with a Q20 MTA bus that was turning right onto Northern Boulevard from Main Street, NYPD Assistant Chief Juanita Holmes said at the scene. That account was verified in surveillance video that surfaced in media reports in the hours after the crash. The video appears to show the tour bus driving quickly through a red light. On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the incident, said that preliminary video showed the tour bus travelling between 54 and 62 miles per hour in a 30 mile-per-hour zone.
Immediately after the crash, MTA Chairman Joe Lhota said that the agency was “very concerned about the speed,” especially considering that the MTA bus spun around after impact.
“That requires an enormous amount of speed,” Lhota said, adding that he would wait until the investigation is completed before discussing more specifics. The MTA bus driver was taken to a local hospital in “non-critical” condition, Lhota added.
A man who answered the phone at the number associated with Dahlia Travel & Tours said that he had no comment and no information at the time.
News reports since the accident have focused on Dahlia’s history, which includes another fatal crash in February 2016. Mong, the driver, was a fired MTA bus driver who had pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and leaving the scene of a crash in 2015, reports said.
The day after the crash, Council members Peter Koo (D-Flushing) and Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Flushing), chairman of the City Council’s transportation committee, held a press conference alongside Comptroller Scott Stringer and other community leaders to call for greater oversight of charter buses in the city.
“Yesterday’s devastation demands a closer look at how this industry can better regulate,” Koo said. “At the end of the day, we must ensure the safety of our streets and the security of passengers in both public and private transportation, whether that means requiring background checks on drivers, cracking down on the number of hours drivers are allowed to drive or even simply stepping up enforcement.”
Rodriguez called for a hearing with the transportation committee in October or November to discuss “how we regulate inter-city buses, charter buses.” Both lawmakers cautioned that the investigation into the cause of the crash is ongoing and the public shouldn’t jump to conclusions.
“Unless there was a human error, this is unacceptable,” he said.
After the initial collision, the buses crashed into a Kennedy Fried Chicken on the corner, causing significant damage to the storefront. At the time of the press conference, crews were ensuring that the building’s integrity was intact. A spokesman for the city’s Buildings Department said that temporary shoring was installed immediately after the crash.
“The impact of this collision on the building was very, very substantial,” de Blasio said.
Northern Boulevard is considered a “priority corridor” under de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan, which aims to reduce traffic fatalities in New York City. No one had previously died at the intersection of Main Street and Northern Boulevard, where Monday’s accident occurred, but there have been five other injuries there this year, according to city data. There were 10 injuries at the spot in 2016 and 12 in 2015.
“We’re certainly going to look at this intersection—the first thing we need to understand is what happened here,” de Blasio said. “Of course, we’ll look at the intersection itself to see if there’s anything else that we have to do to improve the situation.”
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) said that she was concerned about traffic safety in the area and hoped that officials would review past incidents to determine a safer future for the corridor.
“We’re going to work with the business owners, we’re going to reach out to the families whose family members were killed or injured and see if we can be a resource there,” Meng said at the scene. “In the long term, we need to work with Councilmember Peter Koo and the mayor’s office to see what the past incidents at these four intersections have been and what we can do to improve the situation.”
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x 127, email@example.com or @farrellj329.