9-year-old Girl Among 5 Dead in Massive NJ-based Tour Bus Crash
A 9-year-old girl is among the five people who died in Sunday morning's crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Pittsburgh involving three tractor trailers, a tour bus, and a passenger car.
Pennsylvania State Police said the bus, registered to Rockaway Borough-based Z & D Tour, was traveling downhill on a curve in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh at 3:40 a.m.
The bus careened up an embankment and rolled over. Two tractor-trailers then struck the bus, according to police. In what police described as as chain-reaction crash, a third tractor-trailer then crashed into those trucks. A passenger car was also involved in the pileup.
The crash closed 86 miles of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in both directions. The eastbound lanes were reopened on Sunday afternoon and the westbound lanes on Sunday evening.
Westmoreland County Coroner Kenneth Bacha identified the those who died in the crash as bus driver Shuang Qing Feng, a 58-year-old male from Flushing, New York; bus passenger Eileen Zelis Aria, 35, of the Bronx; bus passenger Jaremy Vazquez, a 9-year-old girl from Brooklyn; and UPS drivers Dennis L. Kehler, 48, from Lebanon, Pennsylvania and Daniel J. Kepner, 53, of Lewistown, Pennsylvania.
No one from New Jersey died in the crash, which injured over 50 people, according to a count by Pennsylvania State Police.
Omeil Ellis of Irvington told TribLive.com reported that two of his brothers were injured in the bus crash. HIs brother, Anthony Ellis, was in surgery Sunday afternoon, while a 17-year-old brother was in stable condition. He told TribLive they were traveling to Ohio for work and he was going to join them this week.
Pennsylvania State Police and the NTSB's Jennifer Homendy both said during their respective press briefings on Sunday the bus left Rockaway. However, the New York Times reported that a man identified as the bus owner said the bus had departed from Canal Street in Chinatown in lower Manhattan.
The same report said Chen Dan Yu told the NY Times that the bus was carrying 56 passengers and was headed to "multiple destinations in Ohio." Yu said tickets had been sold through "Ohio Coach."
A review of Z & D Tour's US DOT Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration file showed the 8 buses owned by Z and D Tour had a satisfactory rating in inspections for the past two years.
During her press briefing on Sunday night, Homendy said a team of 20 specialists from the NTSB will be investigating the crash and collecting "factual information" to determine why the crash occurred.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.