Bus driver not guilty in fatal NY crash that killed 15

The bus driver who prosecutors claimed was so tired that he crashed a bus, killing 15 passengers, was found not guilty of manslaughter on Friday. 

Ophadell Williams was cleared of all felony charges by a Bronx jury following a dramatic trial that lasted two months, reports the NY Daily News. 

Prosecutors alleged that 41-year-old Williams was dangerously sleep-deprived while returning the World Wide Tours bus to Chinatown after an overnight trip to the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut in March 2011. 

Williams struck a guardrail on Interstate 95 near the Bronx-Westchester border, flipped over, and smashed into a signpost that sheared off part of the roof, reports the New York Times.

Dozens of passengers were injured including one man whose arms were ripped off as he tried to shield his face. Fifteen passengers died in the crash, which was one of the deadliest in New York City's history. 

Prosecutors tried to claim that Williams was so tired during the drive that it was equivalent to being drunk. One prosecutor told the New York Times that it was as if Williams was suffering from “sleep deprivation so severe that it affected his reflexes the same as if he was intoxicated.”

Williams, however, argued throughout the trial that he had been awake and alert, reports AP. He said the fatal crash happened after a tractor-trailer cut him off, causing him to swerve and hit a guardrail.

According to AP, investigators found no proof that had happened. 

The NY Daily News reported that Williams wiped his brown nervously and sat with a Bible on the defense table in front of him.

He was visibly relieved after being cleared of all felony charges but Williams was found guilty only of the least serious charge - aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle. He will pay a $500 fine after time served.

Williams has been in prison since September 2011 after failing to post the $250,000 bail.