The wreck left a scene of carnage and closed the southbound side of Interstate-95 for hours while emergency workers attended to critically injured survivors.
Police began a hunt for the driver of the tractor trailer, which did not stop after the crash, New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said.
The bus, operated by the charter company World Wide Tours, was headed to Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood carrying a full load of passengers returning from the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, Conn.
As it entered the city at around 5:30 a.m., it was struck from behind by a tractor trailer, Browne said. The bus began swerving, toppled and crashed into the support post for a highway sign indicating the exit for the Hutchinson Parkway.
The pole entered through the front window, then sheared the bus from front to back along the window line, peeling the roof off all the way to the back tires.
Police and fire officials say the bus was carrying at least 31 passengers. The driver survived.
In addition to the fatalities, six passengers were critically hurt and four more hospitalized with less severe injuries, a Fire Department spokesman said. Eleven others sustained minor injuries.
Traffic was also closed on the northbound side of the highway after the crash, but was moving again by mid-morning.
JIM FITZGERALD,Associated Press
TOM HAYS,Associated Press
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.