LENOX HILL, Manhattan — More than a dozen people are in the hospital, two of them in serious condition, after the open-air tour bus on which they were passengers crashed into a tree next to Central Park.
The bus, which is operated by GO New York Tours, ran off Fifth Avenue and into a tree between 62nd and 63rd streets about 1:15 p.m. Thursday. Police confirmed that 13 people suffered minor injuries.
"We were working here" when it happened, said Danny Palletto, a construction worker at a site right across the street from the crash. "I felt the ground shake. Thank God that tree was there, or he would've went through the wall."
Palletto was referring to the stone wall bordering the park. A collision into it may have resulted in worse injuries.
"Everybody was in shock," Palletto added. "If they flew off the top of the bus, it could've been a lot worse."
Bernard Bradley had been on the same side of the avenue as the bus, about 50 yards away, when it crashed.
"He veered left," he said about the bus's movements in front of him, then it steered right "off the avenue and crash," said Bradley. "It was amazing."
As for what had gone wrong, the witness said the double-decker tour bus had moved from one of the center lanes of traffic into the bus lane, on the far right of Fifth Avenue. That's where an MTA bus was picking up and discharging passengers.
"He came up behind the NYC bus and [the tour bus] came on too quickly," Bradley said.
He recorded video in the seconds following the crash. Its images support his description.
The exact cause of the crash is still under investigation. A police source told PIX11 News a taxi driver is suspected of having cut off the tour bus, causing it go off the road and into a tree.
Witnesses said throngs of passersby jumped into action and helped those who were hurt.
The bus is operated by Go New York Tours, which had no comment about the crash that shut down one of the city's busiest thoroughfares. Fifth Avenue was closed for nearly five hours, from about 1:15 p.m. to 5:55 p.m.
Go New York Tours said in a statement to PIX11 News:
This afternoon at approximately 1:30 pm, a double-decker, open-top tour bus operated by Go New York Tours, crashed near 63rd Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City.
We are saddened to report that several passengers on board were injured as a result. The injured passengers were immediately taken to nearby Lenox Hill Hospital. According to police reports, the bus swerved to a sidewalk and crashed into a tree to avoid being cut off by a taxi. The operator of our vehicle was also taken to the hospital for a precautionary examination.
We deeply regret the distress caused by this incident and our thoughts are with the affected families and friends of those involved. We are grateful to local authorities for acting quickly to care for those who were injured.
In the four years of our operation and literally thousands of tours, safety has always been and continues to be our top priority. We adhere to and comply with the federal and state guidelines on vehicle and driver safety.
We are fully cooperating and working closely with local authorities and law enforcement officials as the investigation into this incident continues.
Presently, this is all of the information that we have to share. We will provide updates as additional information becomes available and it is appropriate to do so.