The driver of the Big Red Bullet bus that crashed in Pennsylvania on Sunday night, killing a Cornell alumna, told investigators that he “fell asleep at the wheel,” police said on Wednesday.
Pennsylvania state Trooper Robert M. Urban told The Sun that there were no signs of vehicle failure. He said the driver was cooperating with police and that police have not filed any charges in connection with the fatal crash, although the investigation is ongoing.
“The driver did tell us that he fell asleep at the wheel,” Urban said in an email. The male driver has not been identified, but Urban previously said the driver was taken to a hospital for a blood test after the crash, which is required by federal regulations.
Big Red Bullet did not respond to messages seeking comment Wednesday.
Rebecca Blanco M.B.A. ’17 died from multiple traumatic injuries sustained when the bus, headed from Ithaca to New York City, went off the side of a highway in Lackawanna County just after 9 p.m., hitting several trees. Blanco, 33, a senior communications manager at household goods company Snowe, was pronounced dead on the scene. Several others were injured.
A U.S. Department of Transportation agency is investigating Ithaca-based Big Red Bullet’s compliance with federal regulations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will review the company’s records and share the results of its probe with state police.
Big Red Bullet apologized Tuesday and said it was cooperating with investigators.
“We are a small Ithaca-based company and realize that words cannot begin to express our sorrow to the family and friends of Ms. Blanco and the families and friends of those who may have been injured in this tragic accident,” the company said in a statement.
The company’s bus, carrying a driver and 12 passengers, veered off Interstate 380 Sunday, killing Blanco and injuring the driver and several other passengers. All but one passenger had been released from hospitals as of Monday.
Two Cornellians told The Sun this week that they had complained to Big Red Bullet about its drivers’ behavior in recent months.
Juan Felipe Beltran, grad, filed a complaint with Big Red Bullet on Sept. 16, a day after he took a Sunday trip from Ithaca to New York City.
In the complaint, Beltran said the driver had been swerving, made unscheduled stops to “get coffee,” returning with food instead, and had gotten lost along the way.
Big Red Bullet general manager Charlie Brundza said in an email to Beltran that the driver had violated a number of the company’s policies, and that the company had “taken the proper steps from preventing these issues from ever happening again.”
“I promise you that you will never have to deal with this Bus Captain or his improper behaviors,” Brundza wrote in the email, which was obtained by The Sun.
Andre Hook M.B.A. ’18 M.H.A. ’18 filed a complaint with the company after a trip on Dec. 3, 2017, saying the driver was “distracted” and had clipped another bus with one of the bus’s side mirrors.
He also said the Big Red Bullet bus veered into other lanes, nearly striking a truck that swerved out of the way, and that the bus driver was using his phone on his lap while driving.
Hook said that during another trip with the company, on May 22, the driver told passengers at the beginning of the trip that he had been driving for more than 12 hours and that he had not eaten.
Big Red Bullet launched in 2015 and is not affiliated with Cornell. It is one of several companies that serves a growing demand for Ithaca-to-New-York-City travel.