A dropped metal thermos may have caused the horrific September 2017 bus crash in Flushing that killed three people and injured 17.
The National Transportation Safety Board released its report last Thursday about the collision, in which a Dahlia Travel & Tours charter bus speeding at 60 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone slammed into an MTA bus on Northern Boulevard at Main Street.
Many other possible factors were discounted but officials could not totally dismiss the bottle that belonged to 49-year-old Raymond Mong of College Point, the driver of the charter bus. The crash killed him.
The NTSB’s review of a recording from a GPS device led it to conclude the driver was “conscious and aware of the hazardous conditions preceding the crash” but couldn’t slow the vehicle down.
In the wake of the collision, investigators found the thermos near the bus’ control pedals. Mong’s wife told them he’d brought it with him to work that day.
According to the report, they explored whether the bottle could have ended up lodged between or under the gas and brake pedals, which could have made the vehicle go faster and kept its brakes from stopping it. Surveillance video from the crash did not show the charter bus’ brake lights on until it collided with the MTA vehicle.
NTSB officials tried to see if a rattling noise recorded by the bus’ GPS device was created by the thermos, but they could not reach a determination either way. The board also checked to see if marks on the bottle were caused by impact from the brakes but found “no physical evidence ... to indicate this type of interference.”
Officially, the NTSB determined the “probable cause” of the collision to be the driver’s “unintended acceleration of the motorcoach and inability to brake for reasons that could not be conclusively determined from the information available.”
Immediately after the crash last year, stories surfaced about Mong.
He was an MTA bus driver until getting fired after the agency learned he pleaded guilty to a DUI in Connecticut back in 2015. The Department of Motor Vehicles did not know he was working for Dahlia at the time of the crash.
Additionally, stories came out about the company’s record.
In 2003, two people died and 28 were injured when one of its buses flipped over on the Garden State Parkway en route to Atlantic City. Another went off Interstate-95 in Connecticut in February 2016; 36 people were injured and a Queens woman died.
An employee at the Willets Point-based bus company hung up the phone when a Chronicle reporter called last Friday.
But the NTSB’s investigation found that the bus Mong was driving had no “runaway engine, electrical malfunction, brake fade or brake deficiencies, or issues with an open throttle.”
Nor was evidence of alcohol or drugs found in the driver’s system, and investigators analyzed medical records to determine that he didn’t have chronic or acute sleep deprivation.
The bus had left Dahlia’s parking lot in Willets Point just four minutes and eight seconds before the crash took place, according to the NTSB’s report.