NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana’s U.S. senators and the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman are asking the Department of Homeland Security for information about the man identified as the driver of a bus that hit a firetruck and other vehicles in Louisiana, killing two people and injuring three dozen.
State police have said Denis Yasmir Amaya Rodriguez, 37, a Honduran immigrant, was driving the bus. He entered the U.S. illegally and has no U.S. driver’s license, let alone a commercial license to drive a bus, Trooper Melissa Matey has said. She said he also was ticketed Aug. 5 for driving without a license.
“Sadly, this is yet another story in a long line of stories where innocent American citizens have been killed or injured by an illegal alien who has complete disregard for the laws of this nation,” Republican Sens. Charles Grassley of Iowa and David Vitter and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana wrote Tuesday to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
The senators want a wide variety of information, including how and when Amaya Rodriguez entered the United States, and every date on which a law enforcement agency encountered him. The 11-point list of requests also asks whether he ever applied for immigration benefits, whether he was associated with any criminal gang, and for his “complete alien file.”
“If Rodriguez had been encountered by DHS enforcement officials prior to his arrest for murder, would he have met the requirements to be considered a priority for removal under the Administration’s Priority Enforcement Program? If so, please provide the exact reason for such consideration. If not, why not?”
Amaya Rodriguez was not charged with murder. He was arrested on two counts of negligent homicide and one each of negligent injury, reckless driving and driving without a license. He is being held in lieu of $1.1 million bond, St. John the Baptist Parish sheriff’s Lt. Sharon Sealy said Tuesday. The jail is in LaPlace, about 30 miles west of New Orleans and near the elevated stretch of Interstate 10 where the crash occurred.
The senators asked for the information by Sept. 12.
The bus was carrying 24 construction workers on their way to Baton Rouge, police have said. They were planning to apply for flood-remediation jobs with a company partly owned by an Arkansas legislator, an attorney for the company said Tuesday. Jesse Wimberly of Mandeville, representing Wallace, Rush, Schmidt Inc., said the company provides crews for such work.
The company’s three owners include Arkansas state Rep. David Wallace, a first-term Republican from Leachville, and Eddie Schmidt, an elected constable in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana.
Sunday’s crash marked the sixth time since September 2012 that Amaya Rodriguez had been ticketed for driving without a license, The New Orleans Advocate reported (http://bit.ly/2bOIYzt). One of those cases also accused him of careless driving and improperly changing lanes.
Wimberly said the bus was hired by an independent headhunter, and “it appears the bus company hired the driver.”
Wallace’s company would have checked the immigration status of all of the construction workers when they arrived in Baton Rouge, Wimberly said.
The bus company, identified as both AM Party Bus and Kristina’s Transportation LLC, is now being investigated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, state police said Tuesday. State police will continue to lead the investigation of the crash itself, the statement said.
The number given by directory assistance for Kristina’s Transportation is that of Ahmed Salem, who said he sold the company to a Christian Lombardo in January. Lombardo did not respond to a message left with agents who answered calls to the company’s reservations line.
The 2002 Eldorado bus hit the firetruck, which was blocking traffic from an earlier one-vehicle crash, Sunday morning. It then slammed a small car into a flatbed trailer and swerved behind the firetruck, hitting three firefighters and the pickup truck that was in the earlier crash.
District Fire Chief Spencer Chauvin and a back-seat occupant of the small car were killed.
Chauvin will be buried after a 2 p.m. funeral Mass on Thursday at a Catholic church in Edgard, according to Rose Lynn Funeral Service in Lutcher. His visitation will be that morning and early afternoon at the local civic center, with a fireman’s memorial procession from the civic center to church.
The funeral home obituary says Chauvin’s father and grandfather were volunteer firefighters, and he began working with a fire department in St. John the Baptist Parish as a teenager.
Associated Press researchers Monika Mathur, Rhonda Shafner and Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.