BOWLING GREEN, Va. – A prosecutor said Friday that a reckless driving charge will be dropped against a driver for a discount bus service whose bus crashed on Interstate 95 in Virginia, killing four people and injuring others.
Caroline County Commonwealth's Attorney Tony Spencer told The Associated Press ahead of a scheduled court hearing that his office will not prosecute the misdemeanor charge against Kin Yiu Cheung, 37, of New York. Cheung is scheduled for trial in January on four felony counts of involuntary manslaughter. He faces up to 10 years in prison for each count if convicted.
Court records show Cheung admitted to police that he fell asleep at the wheel when the low-fare Sky Express bus from Greensboro, N.C., to New York City swerved off Interstate 95 about 30 miles north of Richmond, hit an embankment and overturned with 60 people aboard May 31.
His attorneys have called the crash a "terrible accident and a tragedy."
Virginia State Police said those killed in the crash were Karen Blyden-Decastro, 46, of Cambria Heights, N.Y.; Sie Giok Giang, 63, of Philadelphia; Josefa Torres, 78, of Jamaica, N.Y.; and Denny Estefany Martinez, 25, of Jersey City, N.J.
Transportation Department officials were in the process of shutting down the company at the time of the crash, but had given the Charlotte, N.C., company an extra 10 days to appeal an unsatisfactory safety rating.
A timeline released by the department indicated that without the extension, Sky Express would have ceased operations the weekend before the crash. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has directed the department to stop extending appeals periods for operators found to be unsafe.
Following the crash, federal officials shut down the bus line and then issued a cease-and-desist order against the company after finding it was trying to sell tickets under other names.
Sky Express is part of an industry of inexpensive buses that travel the East Coast offering cheap fares, convenient routes and, in some cases, free wireless Internet. The industry is in the fifth year of a boom, but a string of deadly accidents has prompted calls for tougher federal regulation.
According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records, Sky Express buses had been involved in four crashes with an injury or fatality -- it didn't specify which -- during the two-year period that ended May 20. The company also had been cited for 46 violations of drivers being fatigued over that same period, ranking it worse than 86 percent of commercial motor carriers.