A jury found Bronx bus driver Ophadell Williams not guilty on Friday for multiple counts of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and assault for a bus crash that took the lives of 15 passengers and injured 15 more (video below).
Williams was convicted of one minor charge of aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle, which he has already served time for. For that conviction, Williams only got a $500 fine, which is about $33 for each life lost, reports the Daily Mail.
As the verdict was read in the courtroom, Williams' eyes welled up with tears and he whispered "thank you" to his lawyer Patrick Bruno, reports the New York Post.
At 5:40 a.m. on March 12th, 2011, Williams claimed that he lost control of the bus, which he was driving from New York to the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut, after he was cut off on Interstate 95 by a tractor-trailer.
Williams' bus hit a guardrail, flipped onto its side and hit a highway sign pole, cutting off the roof.
Florence Wong, the daughter of a passenger killed in the accident, told the New York Daily News: "I do not agree with the verdict. Williams is still responsible for the lives lost. I don't believe the truck cut him off. There was no physical evidence that the truck made contact. He was responsible. He was driving the bus."
The National Transportation Safety Board determined that Williams was driving on the freeway at 78 mph in a 50 mph zone and that driver fatigue had been the most likely cause, as Williams had almost no sleep for three days prior to the crash.
Also, the bus 'black box' revealed that Williams never tried to hit the brakes to avoid the vehicle and never made contact with the tractor-trailer.
Assistant Bronx District Attorney Gary Weil said: "Everyone said it was a tough case because everyone falls asleep at the wheel at some point."