The Toronto-based owner of a chartered bus that crashed on a New Jersey highway wasn't authorized to operate in the United States, a U.S. transport safety watchdog confirmed Monday.
The bus flipped, slid and crashed into a boggy embankment on an interstate exit ramp in Wayne, N.J., on Saturday morning. Twenty-three people were injured and at least three, pinned beneath windows, had to be extracted by emergency crews. None of the injuries were critical, police say. Most were out of hospital Sunday evening.
New Jersey state police have been interviewing witnesses and inspecting the crash scene to determine the cause. They can't say how long the investigation will take.
The bus left Toronto carrying 57 people, many of them Seventh Day Adventists heading to a convention in Brooklyn, N.Y. Police said the bus was rented by Cynthia's Bus Tours in Toronto and belonged to AVM Max 2000 Chartered Bus Services, Inc. Phone calls to the business listing of Cynthia's Bus Tours were not answered Sunday.
Documents from the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration indicate a company listed as AYM Max 2000 Chartered Services, Inc. was not authorized to operate in the U.S. The two companies share a phone number and Scarborough address, as well as a U.S. Department of Transportation identification number. A statement Tuesday from the Motor Carrier Safety Administration confirmed the two companies are the same.
Transportation department records also cite AYM Max 2000 for multiple violations of fatigued driving rules over more than a year and a half.
Earlier this year, the documents indicate, a driver for the company was cited for working longer than the 11 hours permitted.
"While AYM Max 2000 Charter Services has a satisfactory safety rating, it does not have the authority to operate in the U.S. due to an unresolved lapse in its insurance coverage," the motor carrier safety administration stated in an e-mail Monday. "This compliance violation is one of the factors we will evaluate as part of our post-crash investigation of the carrier and driver."
A company profile on Industry Canada's website, last updated in July, lists Scarborough resident Vimalan Kailasapillai as AVM Max 2000's CEO. AVM Max 2000 has "a proud 20 year rich heritage providing a comfortable charter bus rental experience," the profile reads. It adds that the company provides trucks, utility trailers and RVs as well as chartered school and employee bus transportation."
Mr. Kailasapillai did not return e-mails or phone calls to his business, home or cellphone numbers Sunday.
A spokesman for the Motor Carrier Safety Administration didn't respond to questions by deadline Sunday evening. State police wouldn't comment on the bus owner's authorization status.
"Our responsibility is to investigate the bus accident," said Sergeant Adam Grossman. "I'm not going to have that information about any type of federal laws or procedures."
The bus's 51-year-old driver, Brampton native Neville Larmond, told police he was cut off by another driver just before the crash.
"We're going to investigate the driver's statements. We're going to investigate everything that happened that day," Sgt. Grossman said. "I don't think anything has been ruled out yet. … There has been no determination whether alcohol or drugs are part of this investigation."