Driver in deadly bus crash faces arraignment

Jun 3 2011 - 10:42am

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Kin Yiu Cheung, left, and his lawyer Murray Janus arrive at Caroline County court in Bowling Green, Va., for Cheung's arraignment Friday, June 3, 2011. The 37-year-old bus driver from Flushing, N.Y., is charged with reckless driving in the May 31 crash on Interstate 95 that killed four women from New York, Philadelphia and New Jersey. (AP Photo/Michael Felberbaum)
Kin Yiu Cheung, center, and his lawyer Murray Janus arrive at Caroline County court in Bowling Green, Va., for Cheung's arraignment Friday, June 3, 2011. The 37-year-old bus driver from Flushing, N.Y., is charged with reckless driving in the May 31 crash on Interstate 95 that killed four women from New York, Philadelphia and New Jersey. (AP Photo/The Free Lance Star, Reza A. Marvashti)
Kin Yiu Cheung arrives at Caroline County General District court in Bowling Green, Va. Friday, June 3, 2011 for his arraignment on wreckless driving charges that stem from a fatal bus accident in Virginia earlier in the week. (AP Photo/The Free Lance Star, Reza A. Marvashti)
Kin Yiu Cheung, left, and his lawyer Murray Janus arrive at Caroline County court in Bowling Green, Va., for Cheung's arraignment Friday, June 3, 2011. The 37-year-old bus driver from Flushing, N.Y., is charged with reckless driving in the May 31 crash on Interstate 95 that killed four women from New York, Philadelphia and New Jersey. (AP Photo/Michael Felberbaum)
Kin Yiu Cheung, center, and his lawyer Murray Janus arrive at Caroline County court in Bowling Green, Va., for Cheung's arraignment Friday, June 3, 2011. The 37-year-old bus driver from Flushing, N.Y., is charged with reckless driving in the May 31 crash on Interstate 95 that killed four women from New York, Philadelphia and New Jersey. (AP Photo/The Free Lance Star, Reza A. Marvashti)
Kin Yiu Cheung arrives at Caroline County General District court in Bowling Green, Va. Friday, June 3, 2011 for his arraignment on wreckless driving charges that stem from a fatal bus accident in Virginia earlier in the week. (AP Photo/The Free Lance Star, Reza A. Marvashti)

The driver of the Sky Express bus in Tuesday's deadly crash will be arraigned in a Virginia court Friday morning on reckless driving charges.

Investigators say Kin Yiu Cheung, 37, was sleepy when his bus swerved off northbound Interstate 95, hit an embankment and flipped, killing four women and injuring 53 other passengers.

Charlotte-based Sky Express was shut down this week by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The agency cited multiple violations of federal safety regulations. In the past two years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has leveled dozens of safety violations against Sky Express and its drivers, including speeding and driving more than 10 hours without a safety break.

In the past two years, the company ranked at or near the bottom of bus carriers on "driver fitness" evaluations, which include such measures as experience, English-language skills, driver fatigue and driving too many hours without rest.

Sky Express, incorporated in 2004, uses 31 coaches to carry riders from cities in North Carolina and South Carolina to New York. For a $30 ticket, passengers can take one of three daily buses from Charlotte to New York's Chinatown.

Reached Thursday, the company declined to answer questions about whether it plans to appeal the Department of Transportation's ruling. In a statement to McClatchy Newspapers, spokeswoman Gail Parenteau said the "company is still reviewing its options."

Sky Express said Cheung has never had an accident. But court records show the Flushing, N.Y., man has had several traffic violations. They include at least three speeding offenses, two seat-belt citations and also violations for following too closely and failure to stop or yield entering the highway.

In the aftermath of the crash Tuesday, survivors described how the bus wobbled before veering off the interstate and flipping.

Ben Johnson, an upholsterer from Manhattan, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch he escaped through a broken window, then reached back into the bus to help others escape.

"Hurry! Help me!," one screamed.

"I'm still here!" another said.

Johnson said he knelt down beside a broken window to talk with a trapped woman and child. He couldn't see them in the dark but assured them that help was on the way.

"It's going to be all right," he told them. "Hold on."

Police and ambulances arrived within 15 minutes of the accident, he said. Victims were taken to 11 hospitals.

The Virginia State Police identified the dead passengers as Denny Estefany Martinez, 25, of Jersey City, N.J.; Karen Blyden-Decastro, 46, of Cambria Heights, N.Y.; Sie Giok Giang, 63, of Philadelphia; and Josefa Torres, 78, of Jamaica, N.Y.

(c) 2011, The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.).

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

 

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