A Resorts World Casino bus crashed into a three-story building while trying to avoid a vehicle making a sharp turn in Queens Monday afternoon, critically injuring the bus driver and hurting several other people, officials say.
The 39-year-old bus driver was going northbound on Woodhaven Boulevard in Rego Park when a vehicle made a sharp turn in front of him at 63rd Avenue, officials said. In an attempt to avoid hitting the vehicle, the bus driver made a sharp right turn and struck the corner of the building at 62-87 Woodhaven Blvd., smashing through the structure and badly damaging it.
The driver of the vehicle has been issued a summons for making the illegal left turn, police said.
Chopper 4 showed an extensive emergency presence at the scene after the 2 p.m. accident. Most of the lower two floors at the back of the building appeared to have caved in; debris littered the sidewalk and the inside of the bus.
"The building literally crumbled around the bus," said witness PJ Marcell, who's also a volunteer firefighter in neighboring Forest Hills. "The bus hit it with brute force, sheared almost three-quarters of its nose off."
The driver, who was pinned in the bus, was taken to New York Hospital Queens in serious to guarded, according to fire officials. Officials say they had to use the Jaws of Life to get him out.
The windshield of the bus was completely demolished, though it wasn't clear how much damage was caused by the accident and how much was caused by efforts to rescue the pinned driver.
Cellphone video taken in the moments just after the crash show some of the four passengers on board trying to escape by climbing through side windows with the help of neighbors and passersby, who grabbed ladders to help them.
"I helped this other lady, she was screaming, 'Get me out, get me out,'" said one bystander. "She was scared, really nervous."
"There was no emergency exit on the bus," said another witness. "They were banging against the window to get out."
The four passengers were injured, along with one person inside the building, fire officials said. All five were taken to hospitals but are expected to be OK.
It wasn't immediately clear whether homes or offices were in the building that was hit; a sign for law offices was seen on part of the structure, which is listed online as being a multi-family home.
The husband of the building's owner said briefly at the scene: "It wasn't a happy day."
The Department of Buildings and Emergency Services Units were on the scene. Heavy machinery was used to pry the mangled bus out of the building by evening.
The bus was from Resorts World Casino but was being operated by a contractor. The casino didn't say where the bus was headed when it crashed.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with those impacted by today's bus accident," Resorts World Casino New York City said in a statement. "We are cooperating fully with the authorities in the investigation."
The contractor, Trans Express Inc., had one prior crash in November 2013. One injury was reported, but there were no additional details immediately available on the accident.
The company has had 16 violations in the last two years, including for operating a commercial motor vehicle without a commercial driver's license, according to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Last year, it received two maintenance violations concerning vehicle tires.
Trans Express Inc. has not received any "serious violations" as defined by the federal Department of Transportation.
"We are working with the local authorities as well as conducting our own investigation into the accident, the company said in a statement. "Those involved in today’s accident are in our thoughts and prayers."