Sky Express tries to re-open, Driver charged - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Sky Express tries to re-open, Driver charged

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Four people died after this SkyExpress bus wrecked on I-95 in Virginia on Tuesday, May 31. Four people died after this SkyExpress bus wrecked on I-95 in Virginia on Tuesday, May 31.
This mug shot of Kin Yiu Cheung was taken after he was charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter. This mug shot of Kin Yiu Cheung was taken after he was charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.
This mug shot is of Kin Yiu Cheung after he was charged with reckless driving. This mug shot is of Kin Yiu Cheung after he was charged with reckless driving.

WASHINGTON (AP/WBTV) - Federal officials say a tour bus company whose operating authority was revoked this week after a fatal accident has tried to stay in business by using other names and repainting its buses.

The Transportation Department said Friday that it had issued a cease-and-desist order against Sky Express Inc. of Charlotte, N.C., after finding the company was trying to sell tickets under the names 108 Tours and 108 Bus.

The department also said it had subpoenaed records of three websites that have sold tickets for Sky Express and other bus companies.

A Sky Express bus traveling from North Carolina to New York ran off Interstate 95 north of Richmond, Va., on Tuesday.

Four passengers were killed and dozens injured. Transportation officials immediately ordered the company to shut down.

New charges were filed Friday morning against a man who was driving a commercial bus which crashed in Virginia this week killing four passengers.

According to the Virginia State Police (VSP), Kin Yiu Cheung, of Flushing, N.Y., is now charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter. 

Friday afternoon, a magistrate denied bond for Cheung and he is being held at the Pamunkey Regional Jail in Hanover County, Va. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday, June 8.

Earlier this week, Cheung was charged with reckless driving in connection with the deadly crash.

The SkyExpress bus left Greensboro at 10:30 p.m. on Monday, May 30, with 58 people on board. The bus was en route to New York City's Chinatown.

State police said Cheung swerved off the right side of the northbound lanes of I-95 on Tuesday around 4:55 a.m. The bus hit an embankment and overturned about 30 miles north of Richmond.

The four passengers who died in the crash were identified as Karen Blyden-Decastro, 46, of Cambria Heights, NY; Sie Giok Giang, 63, of Philadelphia, Penn.; Josefa Torres, 78, of Jamaica, N.Y.; and Denny Estefany Martinez, 25, of Jersey City, N.J.

Fifty-three passengers were injured in the crash and taken to hospitals in Fredericksburg, Richmond, and Hopewell. Cheung was not hurt.

When Trooper Andrea Vowell arrived at the scene of the wreck, the bus was still rocking. 

"Survivors of the crash were crawling out of the bus into oncoming traffic, and Trooper Vowell reacted quickly, professionally and without regard to her own safety in taking control of the scene," said Caroline County Commonwealth's Attorney Anthony Spencer in a statement released Friday morning. "Thanks to her actions, there were no further injuries."

The Virginia State Motor Carrier Safety Team inspected the bus and ruled out any mechanical errors or malfunctions as contributing factors to the crash.

The VSP said the cause of the crash was "attributed to driver fatigue."

Following Tuesday's crash, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued an unsatisfactory safety rating and placed SkyExpress out-of-service for violating multiple federal safety regulations.

Federal regulators said they intended to shut down SkyExpress a few days prior to the crash, but decided against it so they could do more investigation of the company which is based in east Charlotte.

Under the out-of-service order, SkyExpress is prohibited from operating in interstate transportation services.

"Following Tuesday's horrific bus crash in Virginia, I have directed the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to end its practice of extending the appeals period for unsafe motor coach companies," said US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "There is no excuse for delay when a bus operator should be put out of service for safety's sake. On my watch, there will never be another extension granted to a carrier we believe is unsafe. I'm extremely disappointed that this carrier was allowed to continue operating unsafely when it should have been placed out of service for the benefit of its passengers and other motorists."

FMCSA issued the unsatisfactory safety rating and out-of-service order following a full compliance review of SkyExpress, which found multiple violations in the areas of driver qualification requirements, drug and alcohol compliance, hours-of-service and vehicle maintenance.

According to the Associated Press, the operator of SkyExpress has been involved in numerous crashes in the past two years and cited for 46 violations for fatigued driving.

Reports show SkyExpress has a spotty safety record and has been targeted by regulators for closer scrutiny. Over the past two years, inspectors have carried out 105 inspections of SkyExpress.

During 40 of those inspections, fatigued driving violations were found. Most of the violations were for improper driver logs. The company was found to have more relative violations in the driver fatigue category than 86.2 percent of other companies evaluated.

Twenty-one driver fitness violations were also found during those inspections. Fourteen of the violations were for having a non-English speaking driver. Three violations were for the driver having an improper medical certificate. One did not have the proper driver's license. SkyExpress scored worse than 99.7 percent of other companies in the fitness category.

Inspectors have also found SkyExpress drivers have been ticketed on the roadways 17 times in the past two years. Eleven of those tickets were for speeding. The company scored worse than 62.9 percent of other companies in the unsafe driving category.

Copyright 2011 WBTV. The Associated Press and the U.S. Department of Transportation contributed to this report. All rights reserved.

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