Fed Agency Was Set to Suspend Bus Company Before Crash

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Jane Watrel takes a closer look at the safety record of a tour bus involved in a fatal crash outside Richmond, Va. (Published Friday, Jun 3, 2011)

    The Transportation Department gave Sky Express a break, and then one of the company's bus drivers got into an accident that killed four riders.

    The federal agency in charge of buses transporting riders on the country's highways admitted that they had been poised to shut Sky Express down for safety violations but gave the company extra time to appeal the decision.

    Bus Crash Survivors Recall Chaos

    [DC] Bus Crash Survivors Recall Chaos
    Those who escaped a deadly bus crash in central Virginia on Tuesday morning shared what happened before and after the bus flipped over along I-95. (Published Tuesday, May 31, 2011)

    The company, based in Charlotte, N.C., would have been suspended on Saturday after receiving an unsatisfactory rating from the Transportation Department.

    “They give you a history of all the carriers out there,” transportation safety expert Bob Watkins told NBC Washington's Jane Watrel. “They are in the 99.7 worst bracket in 2011. This 99 is not a good thing.”

    However, the federal agency showed leniency and gave Sky Express an extra 10 days to appeal the decision. Before Tuesday, the company already had four crashes, and received 17 unsafe driving violations, including speeding tickets, in the past two years.

    The accident on Interstate 95 in Virginia on Tuesday killed four and injured dozens. The driver of the bus, Kin Yiu Cheng, 37, of Flushing, N.Y., has been charged with reckless driving and is free on bond, Watrel reported.

    One of the victims of the crash told NBC4's Jane Watrel that she watched the driver guzzling cans of Red Bull during the trip, which was bound for New York City.

    The Department of Transportation did shut the company down on Tuesday, after the crash occurred. 

    “Safety is our number one priority,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a press release. “We will use every resource at our disposal to pursue and remove from our roads unsafe, reckless bus companies.”

    LaHood said he is directing the department ot end the practice of extending appeal periods for operators found to be unsafe.

    On Wednesday evening, the names of the four who died on the bus were released: Karen Blyden-Decastro, 46, of Camria Heights, N.Y., Sie Giok Gian, 63, of Philadelphia, Josefa Torres, 78, of Jamaica, N.Y., and Denny Estefany Martinez, 25, of Jersey City, N.J.