HIGHLAND MILLS, N.Y. – A driver whose license had been suspended 25 times and revoked was at the wheel of a church van that rolled over on the state Thruway last year, killing six people, police said Monday.
Bernard Lattibeaudiere of the Bronx was charged with aggravated unlicensed driving, a felony, and unlicensed driving, a traffic infraction, state police said.
He was not charged with causing the crash, said Sgt. Kevin Flynn. Police said the "predominant cause" of the Sept. 18 crash in Woodbury, about 55 miles northwest of New York City, was a blown tire.
The 15-passenger van was carrying 14 people from the Joy Fellowship Christian Assemblies in the Bronx to a church event near Schenectady. When the tire burst, the van hurtled out of control and rolled over into the grassy median. Several passengers were thrown from the van; most had not been wearing seat belts.
The church's Bishop Simon White, his wife and four others died. Eight people were injured.
Police said they found that Lattibeaudiere was driving with a revoked New York license that had been suspended 25 times. Flynn said that meant Lattibeaudiere had been issued at least 25 tickets.
He was arraigned in Town of Woodbury Court and released pending a Feb. 1 appearance, the police report said. A court clerk said a not-guilty plea was entered. She said Lattibeaudiere does not have an attorney of record.
Calls and an e-mail message to the church were not immediately answered.
The 1997 Econoline van that crashed is a type of vehicle that some consumer groups have been calling unsafe for nearly a decade. But Ford Motor Co. said after the crash that government research showed the van is safe "when properly maintained, driven safely by experienced drivers and when occupants wear their safety belts."
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