The dangers of commercial drivers falling asleep at the wheel – something that is a regular topic on this blog – is getting national attention in the continued coverage of a discount-fare Sky Express bus that ran off I-95 near Richmond, Virginia, en route from Greensboro, North Carolina, to New York, killing four passengers and leaving driver Kin Yiu Cheung of Queens in jail in Hanover, Virginia’s Pamunkey Regional Jail.
May 31, 2011: Four Die in Sky Express Tour Bus Crash as Driver Falls Asleep at the Wheel
Mr. Cheung, a native of Hong Kong, has been charged with four (4) counts of involuntary manslaughter, all felonies, and one count of reckless driving (a misdemeanor). Four women on the bus died in the accident: Karen Blyden-Decastro (NY); Denny Estefany Martinez (NJ); Sie Giok Giang (PA); and Josefa Torres (NY).
What happened on that North Carolina road on May 31, 2011, isn’t in dispute: Kin Yiu Cheung was driving the big bus with its 59 passengers and fell asleep, causing the bus to crash into an embankment and tip over, coming to a stop on its side. Dozens of passengers were injured; four were killed.
It’s been reported that before the wreck, the bus driver was talking on his cellphone loudly enough for some passengers to hear him complain that he was tired and hadn’t had a chance to rest between bus trips.
Yesterday, Virginia Circuit Court Judge Joseph Ellis ruled “with regret” that Mr. Cheung would not be released on bail because of a problem in his proper residence address. Media reports have revealed two different addresses were given by the bus driver for his home: his commercial driver’s license has a Flushing, New York, address but his employer, Sky Express, Inc., has Elmhurst for his home.
March 12, 2011: Fourteen Die in World Wide Tours crash after Bus Driver Allegedly Falls Asleep at the Wheel
If this story sounds familiar, it should. Less than 90 days ago, on March 12, 2011, another tourist bus crashed in Connecticut after the bus driver reportedly fell asleep at the wheel; in this instance, it was a World Wide Tours bus that crashed on a highway in New York City as passengers were returning to Chinatown from a trip to the Mohegan Sun casino. Fourteen (14) passengers died in the World Wide Bus crash.
The March tour bus crash was more gruesome than the May wreck: not only were more people killed, but the event was horrific – one victim was decapitated, another had his two arms severed, and everyone was terrorized in a mass of jagged metal as the bus was torn apart in the darkness, glass flying, after the bus driver lost control of the vehicle and it flipped onto its side and slid for thousands of feet before colliding with an exit sign post, which literally cut the roof off the bus as it slid to a stop.
Chinatown Buses Offer Cheap Travel – New York City’s Mayor Voiced Safety Concerns Before May 31st Wreck
Both these tragedies involve tour buses that offered cheap rates to passengers out of New York City’s Chinatown. After the March crash, New York City’s mayor went to the media voicing his concern over the safety of these bus trips. They ran older buses, and maybe they didn’t follow all the federal and state safety regulations. The New York Daily News reports that the competing Chinatown bus companies have been cited many times in the past two years for bus driver fatique.
Alert and Well-Trained Bus Drivers Are Key to Passenger Safety – Disrespecting HOS is Inexcusable
Hours of service regulations are mandatory for all commercial drivers because a sleepy driver of a bus or big rig can kill people. Sure, the HOS limits mean less profits for the bus line or trucking company – but they are there for a serious reason. HOS save lives.
Let’s hope that something is done about this cheap tour bus situation – and fast. The firm’s sincerest condolences to all those who were injured and died in these needed tragedies.