Federal regulators take bus company off the road after deadly crash
Updated: May 31, 2011 - 11:07 pm
(AP, ABC7) A bus operated by a discount company with a particularly poor record of fatigued driving overturned on a Virginia highway before dawn Tuesday, killing four people and injuring more than 50 others.
Sky Express, the company whose bus crashed Tuesday morning, has been prohibited from operating interstate transportation by federal regulators.
The driver was charged with reckless driving, and police said fatigue was a factor. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.
The SkyExpress bus swerved off northbound Interstate 95, hit an embankment and flipped just before 5 a.m. about 30 miles north of Richmond. Fifty-four people were taken to area hospitals and treated for minor to severe injuries.
The bus left Greensboro, N.C., on Monday night and was headed to Chinatown in New York City with 59 people aboard. The driver, Kin Yiu Cheng, 37, of Flushing, N.Y., was being held in an area jail on $3,000 bond.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found the bus company's safety to be unsatisfactory and placed it out-of-service for violating multiple federal safety regulations, the department said. Under the out-of-service order, Sky Express is prohibited from operating in interstate transportation services.
FMCSA said it found multiple violations in driver qualification requirements, drug and alcohol compliance, hours-of-service and vehicle maintenance in a review of the North Carolina-based company. The company had been involved in several accidents and multiple safety violations over the past years, FMCSA records show.
Poor safety record
The company offered its condolences to the families of the four women killed and said it would cooperate fully in the investigation.
"This is the first serious accident" involving SkyExpress buses, the company said in a statement. "The bus driver has never before been involved in an accident."
The company has been involved in several accidents over the last two years, the Associated Press reports. It also has been cited for 46 violations for drivers being fatigued, which police believe contributed to this crash.
Sky Express Inc. buses have been involved in four crashes, with one injury or fatality during the two-year period that ended May 20, according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records. Its drivers have been cited for 17 unsafe-driving violations, including eight speeding violations, since 2009. Three of the 46 violations for fatigued driving were classified as serious. There were also 110 vehicle maintenance violations.
Sky Express also was cited for 120 vehicle-maintenance violations, including one classified as serious. The National Transportation Board was investigating Tuesday's crash. The bus had no passenger seat belts, only for the driver.
D.C. travelers wait in vain for bus
In Chinatown, travelers waited in vain for a Sky Express bus to take them to Virginia Beach. The bus was scheduled to depart shortly before 8 p.m. but never showed up after the company had been taken off the road by federal regulators.
Travelers were irate that they hadn’t been informed. Singer Alex Bines was heading to a rehearsal that he suspects he’ll miss. “This is crazy,” Bines said.
“I'm shocked,” Natasha Press said about the number of violations.
"I'm not surprised,” countered Larry Vickers, who was going to get on the bus that never came. “You really get what you pay for.”
Four dead in early morning crash
Four people died and dozens were injured when a tour bus carrying ran off the roadway and overturned on I-95 in Caroline County, lading on its roof. The accident happened while the bus was en route to New York City from Greensboro shortly before 5 a.m.
Police say driver fatigue contributed to the crash. Witnesses say Cheung had an energy drink moments before.
Caroline County Fire officials said several passengers were trapped in the overturned bus. In addition to Cheung, 58 passengers were on board at the time of the crash, police said.
The driver, Kin Yiu Cheung, 37, of Flushing, N.Y., suffered minor injuries and was treated at the scene. He has been charged with reckless driving and is being held on a $3,000 bond at the Pamunkey Regional Jail in Hanover County.
A survivor of the crash said that everyone was sleeping at 4:55 a.m. when they were thrown from their seats.
"All of a sudden the bus was flipping over, it was very scary," said Makia George.
The victims have been transported to 11 hospitals in Fredericksburg and Richmond, ABC7 News reports. Their injuries range from minor to life threatening. Authorities said the driver was wearing a seatbelt.
A total of nine agencies, including 100 rescue crew members, responded to the crash. Police say there are people who witnessed the crash. Traffic on I-95 reopened around noon on Tuesday
Some injured critically
Dr. Larry Roberts, chief of the trauma unit at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg said three of the eight patients were in critical condition Tuesday afternoon.
“In buses, you're not wearing seat belts, there are no air bags and so the likelihood that patients, people are tossed around is obviously significantly higher,” said Dr. Larry Roberts, chief of the trauma center at Mary Washington Hospital.
The injuries range from spinal and head trauma to broken bones. Other patients suffered cuts and scrapes. In all, 11 hospitals in central Virginia took dozens of people who were in the crash.
Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center treated eight, of which five had been released by Tuesday afternoon. Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center administrator Tim Tobin said most of the injuries were cuts and bruises.
"One person suffered a broken elbow, but is expected to be released this afternoon", Tobin said.
One passenger arrested at crash scene
Another man was arrested at the scene of the crash, Virginia State Police said. The passenger, Pavion R. O'Connor, was taking pictures of the scene and moved into I-95 lanes that were still open at the time. Police said they directed him to move but he refused and "struggled with the troopers." He was charged for obstruction of justice and resisting arrest.
Sky Express offers $30 bus trips between New York and 15 cities in North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. It also goes to Washington, D.C.
The company stated that it intends to cooperate fully with the authorities and said it’s trying to coordinate with authorities to inform passengers and families and allow passengers to retrieve their belongings from the bus.
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