LOWER EAST SIDE — He was driving for his daughter.
The grieving family of William Pena — a veteran city bus driver killed when a stolen delivery truck slammed into his bus on West 14th Street Wednesday morning — described him as a loving father who was working to help put his 17-year-old daughter through college.
"They were inseparable," said Pena's younger sister, Araseli Pena, wiping tears from her eyes at their mother's apartment on the Lower East Side Wednesday. "I don't know how she is going to handle this."
Family members gathered at Pena's mother's apartment Wednesday afternoon, consoling each other and looking at pictures of him and his daughter, Gabrielle.
Pena, 49, was having car troubles and was staying at the apartment on work nights while his daughter stayed at home with her mother and attended her senior year of high school in New Jersey.
Araseli Pena said her brother, who started driving a bus about the time his daughter was born, was planning to retire in a few years while Gabrielle was in college.
Other family members described Pena as the life of the party, who would light up a room when he entered.
"He loved to make jokes," said cousin Jeannett Torres, 43. "He was a beautiful person."
Pena flew his daughter down to the Dominican Republic two summers ago for her 16th birthday party and was planning to spend part of the year on the island when he retired, Araseli Pena said.
Those plans were shattered Wednesday about 5:30 a.m., when 22-year-old Georgia native Domonic Whilby drove a stolen a granola delivery truck into Pena's bus at the intersection of West 14th Street and Seventh Avenue, police said.
The impact sent both vehicles careening into nearby scaffolding.
Pena was pronounced dead at the scene, and three other bus riders were treated for minor injuries, police added.
The driver of the stolen truck taken to Bellevue Hospital in police custody, authorities said.
Araseli Pena said she heard news about the crash on the radio when she woke up this morning.
"I'm in shock," she said. "I didn't think it was going to be him."