Marijuana Blamed in Fatal Bus Crash

NEW ORLEANS -- A bus driver's use of marijuana hours before the Mother's Day crash that killed 22 people was the main cause of the accident, according to a police report released yesterday.

A blood test showed Frank Bedell, 46, who died Sunday after a heart attack, smoked marijuana between two and six hours before his bus full of mostly elderly women veered off a highway and smashed into a concrete abutment, the report said.

The report listed Bedell's drug use as the main factor leading to the May 9 crash of the Custom Bus Charters bus -- the worst in New Orleans history.

The report ruled out other possible causes, such as mechanical failure. Bedell's extensive health problems, including heart disease and kidney failure, were discussed in detail but were not listed as contributing factors.

The report, forwarded to prosecutors last week before Bedell died, recommended that he be charged with vehicular homicide, first-degree vehicular negligent injuring, reckless operation of a vehicle and driving while intoxicated.

Bedell's death ends any possibility of criminal prosecutions in the case, police said.

The report said the blood test also detected that Bedell had been taking Benadryl, an over-the-counter medication commonly used for allergies. People who take the medication are cautioned not to drive because it can cause drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision and confusion.

Bedell denied being impaired and told police the accident happened when he veered to avoid a car he thought was going to cross into his lane. Bedell never spoke again to investigators before he died, on the advice of his lawyer.

An investigation discovered Bedell received treatment in a hospital emergency room for dehydration and extremely low blood pressure 12 hours before the accident. Earlier that day, he underwent dialysis.

Bedell previously had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, a condition that should have prevented him from keeping his commercial driver's license, officials said. Bedell also was fired from two other bus companies after testing positive for marijuana use. Custom Bus officials have said they called those companies for Bedell's references but were never told about the positive drug tests.

Gambling Chips for Detroit Church

DETROIT -- Hours after Detroit's first casino opened just steps from the Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church, gambling chips began clattering in the collection plate.

The Rev. Russell Kohler wouldn't say how big the jackpot is, but he planned to cash the chips in and use the money to help the poor. "Let's just call it a pile," Kohler said Monday. "Bring them over any time."

The Michigan Gaming Control Board says the exchange is perfectly legal. It's done in other places -- in Las Vegas, many cab drivers accept chips as tips.

The MGM Grand Detroit opened in the Motor City on Thursday.