Thermos may have caused deadly 2017 Flushing bus crash, investigators say

A charter bus struck an MTA bus on Northern Boulevard and Main Street in Flushing, on Sept. 18, 2017, killing three people and injuring 17, police said. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

A thermos bottle could have gotten stuck under or between the control pedals, the National Transportation Safety Board said.

A charter bus struck an MTA bus on Northern Boulevard and Main Street in Flushing, on Sept. 18, 2017, killing three people and injuring 17, police said.
A charter bus struck an MTA bus on Northern Boulevard and Main Street in Flushing, on Sept. 18, 2017, killing three people and injuring 17, police said. Photo Credit: Red Bull Media House

A dropped thermos bottle may have been the cause of the deadly 2017 bus crash in Flushing, the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday. 

The driver of an empty Dahlia Group charter bus died and two other people were killed when he slammed into an MTA bus on Sept. 18, 2017. The driver "was conscious and aware of the hazardous conditions preceding the crash but was unable to control the vehicle’s speed," the NTSB said in its report.

The collision’s impact caused the MTA bus, with 15 passengers on board, to spin 120 degrees. The charter bus then mounted the sidewalk and crashed into a Kennedy Fried Chicken. 

The reason the driver, identified as Raymond Mong, 49, couldn’t slow down could have been because a thermos bottle, which was found near the bus’ control pedals the day of the crash, may have gotten stuck under the brake pedal or between the brake and accelerator pedals, the NTSB said.

Audio from the charter bus’ GPS reveals a metal rattling sound, followed by exclamations from the driver, just before the bus increases speed, according to the NTSB. Within seconds, the bus accelerated from 30 mph to 60 mph and hit the MTA bus at the intersection of Northern Boulevard and Main Street. 

Investigators could not conclude definitively that the thermos was what made the sound in the audio recording or that it was jammed under or between the pedals, but it “could not be ruled out as a possible cause.”

NTSB said investigators “found no evidence that the motor coach driver’s experience, training, route familiarity or pre-crash activities were factors in the collision.”

However, Mong was working for the company illegally. Just a day after the crash, a DMV spokeswoman said there was “no record” of Mong’s status as a driver for the bus company, Dahlia Group Inc., as required by law. He also had previously been arrested and charged for driving a car under the influence in Connecticut, records show.

The crash’s victims included Henry Wdowiak, 68, who was walking on the sidewalk at the time of the collision, and Gregory Liljefors, 55, a passenger on the MTA bus.

Nicole Brown