A veteran New York City bus driver was killed and four others were injured Wednesday morning after a stolen box truck collided with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus in Manhattan’s West Village, authorities said.
The Feb. 12 crash occurred around 5:30 a.m. at the intersection of Seventh Avenue and West 14th Street after the southbound-traveling stolen truck slammed into the crosstown M14D bus that was heading east.
The collision’s impact threw the bus driver, William Pena, 49, of Hillside, NJ, from the driver’s seat and sent him flying underneath the vehicle where he succumbed to life-threatening injuries, officials said.
Craig Ydolly, a 41-year-old newspaper vendor from Midtown, witnessed the accident while he was walking to a doughnut store before his shift early Wednesday.
“I heard like a boom, like when a plow hits the ground,” he said. “I heard the scaffolding fall and I saw someone on the floor.”
Ydolly said he could hear one of the victim’s painful cries as the man lay trapped under debris. “He was like ‘uhhhh,’ Ydolly said, while reenacting the man’s pleas for help. “It looked like a movie in slow motion.”
A police source said investigators believe the box truck was left idling and stolen a few blocks from the crash site. Police officers initially received a call for a possible burglary in progress, but were flagged down by a truck driver when they arrived to an address on West 16th Street, the source said. As the officers were canvassing the area, they “came upon the accident and found it the way you see it now,” the source added.
The suspect – who police sources identified as Dominic Whibly, 22, of Griffin, Ga. – was found unconscious behind the wheel of the truck after the fatal crash. He regained consciousness on the way to the hospital and was under arrest and listed in stable condition late Wednesday.
A law enforcement source said investigators were probing Wednesday afternoon whether the same suspect was responsible for the attempted burglaries – the initial call that police were responding to – after neighborhood residents reported a man skulking around and pushing on door handles.
Police said charges against the suspect were pending late Wednesday. There was no word on when he was scheduled to face a judge for arraignments.
Union leaders were left mourning their friend and colleague, who they described as a 17-year transit veteran, “a real family man,” and a father and husband who leaves behind a wife and teenage daughter.
“He died in the line of duty,” said Earl Phillips, the Secretary-Treasurer of TWU Local 100, the union that represents bus operators. “It’s hard, he’s one of our brothers.”
Other union officials and those who worked close to Pena said they are left mourning a great friend. “A lot of tears are being shed,” said Richard Davis, the union chair in Pena’s division. “It’s such a terrible tragedy. Everyone around here is in a deep depression.”
Union officials said funeral arrangements were still being made late Wednesday.