Sunday, May 8, 2011

Boozed-up tour bus driver kills pedestrian in New York city

Police investigate the scene of accident near 9th Ave. and W. 47th St. Saturday night.

Police investigate the scene of accident near 9th Ave. and W. 47th St. Saturday night.

A boozed-up tour bus driver was arrested after fatally mowing down a man in Midtown, police said.

Cops arrested the unidentified driver after he failed a Breathalyzer test.

Cops arrested the unidentified driver after he failed a Breathalyzer test.
Timothy White was dragged for nearly 30 feet under the rear wheel of the bus as it turned onto Ninth Ave. at W. 47th St. just before 10 p.m. Saturday, cops and witnesses said.

White, 29, of Philadelphia, was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he died, cops said.

The 57-year-old driver, Steve Drappel, of West Palm Beach, Fla. was arrested after failing a Breathalyzer test.

He allegedly had a blood alcohol level of .08 which is twice the legal amount for commercial drivers, at .04, police said. Drappel was charged with vehicular manslaughter and DWI.

Investigators found a bottle of booze on Drappel when he was arrested, sources said.

A number listed for Drappel was disconnected. On his Facebook page, he wrote under activities and interest: "I hate people who can't drive for s---."

Witnesses said it appeared that Drappel was not immediately aware that he had struck a pedestrian and had to be flagged down before he stopped.

"There was a woman who screamed at the top of her lungs," said a 24-year-old witness, who would not give his name.

"People were shouting for the bus to stop and it almost rolled over him again. ...It took a long time for him to stop."

The grisly scene was more than the man could bear to look at at.

"I had to walk away - seeing someone pulled under a bus was just a bloody mess," he said.

The bus had just finished taking tourists on a nighttime city tour run by Chinatown tour operator L & L Travel.

Officials there say they had hired the bus from another company, TraveLynx Inc., of Cocoa, Fla. and that Drappel works for them.

When reached by phone, a TraveLynx official said, "We are running an investigation now, so I really cannot comment."

Federal safety records show a bus owned by the company was involved in a fatal head-on crash in Florida in 2009. In that case, police said the driver of the other car, who was killed, was at fault after veering into the bus' lane.

L & L official Jennifer Yang said she spoke to passengers who told her Drappel's driving had raised no alarm.

"They said the bus driver was driving safely the whole time. They didn't know how this happened," she said. "They said the driver was driving very slowly."

She said the passengers were taken back to their hotel in New Jersey aboard another bus.

Another L & L rep, Jack Lok, said the company works with 30 different bus companies and had temporarily suspended its relationship with TraveLynx.

"We extend our sympathy and we are sorry for the accident. If there is any way we can cooperate with the authorities, we will do so," Lok said. "We've never had a problem like this, so we were very surprised."

The accident comes nearly two months after a fatal bus crash in the Bronx killed 15 passengers headed back to the city from a Connecticut casino.

The incident led to a crack-down on city bus companies, with inspectors aggressively checking for fatigued drivers and unsafe equipment.

With Sam Levin and Mike Jaccarino

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