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Operator In Latest Fatal Tour Bus Crash Had Poor Safety Record

Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - 09:45 PM

Storefront sign in Manhattan's Chinatown announces shut-down of the Sky Express Bus Company. (Photo by: Kathleen Horan / WNYC)

(New York, NY - WNYC) The federal government has indefinitely shut down Sky Express, the company involved in Tuesday's fatal crash of a bus on the Raleigh to New York run. The Charlotte-based operator had a poor safety record even before the accident, which has left legislators and others wondering why the U.S. Department of Transportation had given the company its highest safety rating.

Department records show the Sky Express Bus Company had four crashes in the past two years, with two injuries, and that drivers received forty-six violations related to driver fatigue and falsifying driving records. The company was also in the bottom one percent of carriers for sending out drivers unfit to operate a bus because of health concerns or a lack of training or experience.

But until Tuesday, the DOT gave the bus company a “satisfactory” safety record, its highest rating.

Police say the driver in the early morning bus crash, a Queens resident named Kin Yiu Cheng, may have fallen asleep at the wheel. The Sky Express bus swerved off northbound Interstate 95 near Fredericksburg, VA, hit an embankment and flipped.

The crash killed four passengers and left the driver slightly hurt. Fifty-four people were taken to area hospitals and treated for minor to severe injuries. It was the third deadly accident involving a Chinatown bus in as many months

Virginia police arrested Yiu Cheng for reckless driving.

New York State lawmakers are once again calling for more regulation of so-called Chinatown buses following the fatal crash. Legislation in Albany would allow New York City officials to keep better track of long distance bus operators through permits and more detailed record-keeping.

At a press conference outside a Sky Express office in Manhattan's Chinatown, NY State Senator Daniel Squadron said more oversight of the long distance bus industry was needed. "Enough is enough," he said. "We've had too many tragedies, we have too little regulation we have one solution, what we can do on the state and the city level."

The bill has passed the New York State Assembly but not the Senate.

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