WAYNE, N.J. -- American federal investigators say a motorcoach from Toronto which was involved in a crash on a New Jersey exit ramp this weekend was not permitted to operate in the U.S.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, said the bus company AVM Max 2000 Charter Services Inc. had "no current operating authority" in the U.S. since July due to an insurance lapse.
"Safety is our number one priority,'' the federal agency said in a statement on Monday.
"While (the company) 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. This compliance violation is one of the factors we will evaluate as part of our post-crash investigation of the carrier and driver.''
Online records also show that the company had been cited for five fatigued driving violations since April 2011, including one related to a driver last May who worked for more than the permitted 11 hours on duty.
A chartered company bus carrying 57 passengers overturned on an Interstate 80 exit ramp Saturday in Wayne, N.J., sending 23 passengers to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Police said the passengers were travelling with Cynthia's Bus Tours, which had rented the motorcoach from AVM Max 2000 Charter Services Inc.
U.S. investigators said the Toronto-based bus company is registered with them under a slightly different name -- AYM Max Charter Services Inc. -- but is one and the same.
Phone calls to the company went unreturned Monday.
According to New Jersey state police, the bus slid down an embankment before landing on its side on Saturday, causing windows in the vehicle to shatter. Three passengers were pinned beneath window frames and had to extricated by emergency crews.
A hospital spokeswoman said three people remained in "fair condition'' in hospital Monday afternoon.
The bus driver, identified as 51-year-old Neville Larmond of Brampton, Ont., reportedly told police he had been cut off by another driver just prior to the crash.
Meanwhile, U.S. state troopers said their investigation into the accident is continuing and it will take some time before they can determine a cause.
Many of those on board the bus were Seventh Day Adventists headed to an annual convention in Brooklyn, N.Y., for the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.
By Linda Nguyen in Toronto