Report: Bus driver in fatal crash says bus owner knew he was unlicensed

Report: Bus driver in fatal crash says bus owner knew he was unlicensed

ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST PARISH, LA (WVUE) - The man who police say was behind the wheel of the bus that slammed into a fire truck on Interstate 10 in Laplace and then barreled into two other vehicles spoke out about what he says happened.

"On the day of the accident, I was driving. I was driving the bus. They gave me the bus. They check it out. They said everything is ready, and the bus lost its brakes. There was an accident in front of me and when I went to put on the brakes, the car didn't have any. Nothing. No brakes, and it was raining too," said Denis Yasmir Amaya Rodriguez.

Amaya Rodriguez spoke exclusively to Jambalaya News Louisiana. He remains locked up in the St. John Parish jail. Rodriguez is from Honduras, and police say he's in the country illegally. They also say he doesn't have a driver's license and should not have been behind the wheel.

On the morning of Aug. 28, Amaya-Rodriguez said his boss, Christian Lombardo, gave him the bus to drive.

"And the problem with Chris picking me as the driver is that I don't have a license. I told him I don't want to drive. I don't have a license to drive big vehicles here, and so I declared it," Amaya Rodriguez said.

The bus is owned by Kristina's Transportation LLC, and Lombardo is listed on Secretary of State records as the company's manager.

Three people died because of the crash, including fire district Chief Spence Chauvin. The collision pushed Chauvin over the guard rail, and he fell about 40 feet into the water below.

There were 24 passengers on the bus, and many of those people were also hurt.

The passengers were headed to Baton Rouge to seek work with a flood remediation company.

Amaya Rodriguez insists that he saw the interstate was blocked because of the initial accident, but he couldn't stop the bus.

"When we came to about 300 meters was when I tried the brakes. Where are the brakes? I couldn't get it to brake. I had nowhere to go because both lanes were blocked. In the end, what I did was take impact, and I was either going to die or live through it," Amaya Rodriguez said.

As State Troopers investigate the official cause of the accident, they say speed was a factor, but they also say they're trying to determine if there were any mechanical failures on the bus.

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