Police investigate owners of bus in fatal wreck, driver

Louisiana State Police say they're looking into the owners of a bus that hit a firetruck and other vehicles on an elevated stretch of Interstate 10, killing two people and injuring dozens.

Questions include whether the bus was in good repair and why it went out of control Sunday night, Trooper Melissa Matey said Monday.

It's owned by a company with two names: AM Party Bus and Kristina's Transportation LLC, she said.

Messages left by The Associated Press with the party bus reservations agent were not returned. The listed number for Kristina's Transportation is that of Ahmad S. Salem, who said he sold the company in January.

Matey said Sunday that investigators also want to learn more about the bus driver, Denis Yasmir Amaya Rodriguez, 37, of Honduras. Authorities want to clarify the driver's connection to the bus — is he the person who rented the 2002 Eldorado bus, an employee of whoever did so, or an employee of the bus owners?

Amaya Rodriguez entered the U.S. illegally and does not have a U.S. driver's license, Matey said. On Monday, she said records showed Amaya Rodriguez had been ticketed Aug. 5 for driving without a license. He'd been pulled over that day because the temporary tag for the 2000 Nissan he was driving was not visible, Matey said.

He was not asked then whether he was legally in this country.

Amaya Rodriguez remained in custody Monday, a day after his arrest on two counts of negligent homicide and one each of negligent injury, reckless driving and driving without a license.

Matey said she did not know whether he had a Honduran driver's license or if he was qualified to drive buses in Honduras. What is for sure is that he could not legally drive in Louisiana on a Honduran license, she said.

Police are also trying to track down his 24 passengers. "We're working with Homeland Security investigators to locate those passengers," she said.

The firetruck was blocking the scene of an earlier crash involving a single pickup truck at the time of the wreck Sunday. After the bus hit the firetruck, it slammed a Toyota Camry into a flatbed trailer towed by a pickup truck, then veered into three firefighters and the wrecked pickup truck, Matey said.

The wreck killed Jermaine Starr, 21, of Moss Point, Mississippi, a back-seat passenger in the Camry, and St. John the Baptist Parish district Fire Chief Spencer Chauvin. The injured included the other two firefighters, the bus driver, 24 bus passengers and a total of nine people in the car and pickups.

Vontravous or Vontarous Kelly, also of Moss Point, remained in critical condition Monday, Matey said. Two others described Sunday by police as in critical or serious condition were in fair condition Monday, hospital spokespeople said, and a third described as seriously injured had been released.

Firefighter Nicholas Saale, 32, of Ponchatoula, and David Jones, of Moss Point, were in fair condition, said Siona LaFrance of University Medical Center. Marcus Tate, 35, who police said was driving the Camry and had been seriously injured, was released Sunday from Our Lady of the Lake Hospital, spokeswoman Lauren Davidson said.