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Driver in fatal Virginia bus crash charged

BOWLING GREEN, Va. — A bus operated by a discount company with a poor record of fatigued driving overturned on a Virginia highway before dawn Tuesday, killing four people and injuring more than 50.

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 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 with 59 people aboard. The driver, Kin Yiu Cheung, 37, of Flushing, N.Y., was being held on $3,000 bail.

SkyExpress, which is based in Charlotte, N.C., 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 released through its media liaison, Gail Parenteau.

Many bus operators eschew terminals to offer cheap East Coast fares. The industry is in the fifth year of a solid boom, but recent fatal accidents have prompted calls for tougher regulation.

In a March crash, a speeding bus operated by another company toppled off an elevated highway in New York and hit a utility pole, peeling off the roof, as it was returning to Chinatown from a Connecticut casino. Fifteen passengers were killed and 18 injured.

SkyExpress, which offers $30 trips from New York City to several Southern states, including Florida, had 46 violations for driver fatigue since 2009, three of them serious, according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records. The agency said SkyExpress ranked worse than 86 percent of similar companies in the fatigue category.

SkyExpress buses have been involved in four crashes, with one injury or fatality — the motor carrier agency didn't specify which — during the two-year period that ended May 20. Its drivers have been cited for 17 unsafe-driving violations, including eight for speeding, since 2009.

The company runs 31 motor coaches with about 50 drivers.

Driver in fatal Virginia bus crash charged 05/31/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 11:00pm]
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