POLITICS

Toronto bus in New Jersey crash not permitted to be in U.S.: feds

10/08/2012 03:34 EDT | Updated 12/08/2012 05:12 EST
TORONTO - A motorcoach from Toronto that crashed on a New Jersey exit ramp this weekend was not authorized to operate in the U.S., according to American transportation investigators.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration — which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation — said it had revoked a permit for AVM Max 2000 Charter Services Inc. in July after a lapse in the Canadian company's insurance.

"Safety is our number one priority. 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," the agency said in a statement Monday.

"This compliance violation is one of the factors we will evaluate as part of our post-crash investigation of the carrier and driver," it said.

Online records with the American agency also show that the Canadian company had been cited for five fatigued driving violations since April 2011.

In one instance last May, the company was reprimanded for permitting a driver to work more than 11 hours per day.

Phone calls to the bus company went unreturned Monday.

On Saturday morning, a chartered bus from the company, which was carrying 57 passengers, veered off an Interstate 80 exit ramp in Wayne, N.J., about 25 kilometres northwest of New York City.

New Jersey state police said the bus slid down a grassy embankment before landing on its side, causing windows in the vehicle to shatter. Three passengers were pinned beneath window frames and had to extricated by emergency crews

Twenty-three people — including two children — were taken to several area hospitals with non-life threatening injuries. By Monday afternoon, all but three had been released.

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.

U.S. state troopers said their investigation into the accident is continuing and that 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.

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.

On Industry Canada's website, the company describes itself as one with a "proud 20-year rich heritage" of providing school bus, mini coach and motorcoach bus rentals.