By Patrick Hedlund
DNAinfo News Editor
MANHATTAN — Sen. Charles Schumer wants the state to review the licenses of all tour-bus operators following two fatal crashes involving Chinatown buses that killed 17 people.
Schumer called on the Department of Motor Vehicles to audit the licenses issued to drivers of low-cost carriers after it was revealed that the man behind the wheel of a bus that crashed in the Bronx on March 12, killing 15 people, may have lied to obtain his driver's license.
"As more and more questions are raised as to how this individual obtained and maintained a commercial driving license, it's vital to the safety of New Yorkers and those who ride these buses that we know drivers have safe driving records and valid licenses," Schumer said in a statement.
"There is a real worry that some of these low-cost companies are cutting corners on safety, and a thorough review of all the drivers of firms operating in this market can answer the questions that must be answered."
Schumer's request comes after a bus bound for Chinatown from a Connecticut casino last Saturday morning flipped in the Bronx, killing 15 passengers and injuring more than a dozen others.
Only a few days later, another Chinatown bus bound for Philadelphia crashed on the New Jersey Turnpike, killing two and leaving dozens injured.
The driver of the first bus, Ophadell Williams, had his license suspended last week after a state investigation revealed that he allegedly lied about the status of his license on an application, possibly to hide the fact that he had been using multiple names and had a suspension under one of those names, state officials said.
Schumer noted that competition in the low-cost Chinatown bus market has only increased recently, with more than 2,000 arrival and departures from the downtown neighborhood each week.
"Only a complete vetting of the licenses and driving records of drivers operating these low-cost carriers will prevent people who have no business behind the wheel of a vehicle that carries dozens of passengers from getting there," the senator added.
In response to the crashes, the state Department of Transportation working with state police pulled 10 bus drivers off the road last week following surprise inspections of 36 buses throughout the state.