Free Lance-Star reporter Robyn Sidersky covers Caroline County government and schools. You can reach her at 540/374-5413 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow coverage on Facebook or Twitter as well.
Trial of Sky Express bus driver set in June
A trial date has been set for the Sky Express bus driver charged in a crash that killed four passengers.
Kin Yiu Cheung, 37, of Elmhurst, N.Y. will appear before a judge on June 25 in Caroline County Circuit Court to face four counts of involuntary manslaughter.
While Cheung did not appear in court for today’s status hearing, Judge Joseph J. Ellis set the date, which is one week after the scheduled two-day jury trial of Sky Express bus dispatcher Zhao Jian Chen on June 18.
Chen, 41, is also charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.
Both men have pleaded not guilty.
Cheung, who speaks Mandarin Chinese and limited English, told state police that he was tired and dozed off and then fell asleep on the morning of May 31, 2011 when Sky Express bus No. 386 overturned on Interstate 95 in Caroline County, according to court documents.
According to court records, Cheung told Chen he was too tired to drive that day from North Carolina to New York, but Chen ordered him to drive anyway or he would risk losing his job.
Although Chen, of Greensboro, N.C., was not on the bus, Caroline Commonwealth’s Attorney Tony Spencer said earlier that ordering Cheung to drive that day makes Chen “an accessory before the fact, which makes him just as liable as the driver.”
At the request of the defense, Ellis issued a gag order in March–which means neither the attorneys, judge or translators can discuss the case outside of court– to ensure that Cheung and Chen get a fair trial. The case has drawn extensive media attention and has lawmakers questioning bus regulations nationwide.
When Cheung woke up, the court document said, he turned the bus hard to the left. The bus ran off the right side of the highway near the Carmel Church exit, hit an embankment and overturned, landing on its roof.
State police spokeswoman Corrine Geller said fatigue was a factor in the crash and speed is what made the bus flip over. The speed limit in the crash area is 70 miles per hour.
Of the 58 passengers aboard the bus, 53 were taken to 11 hospitals across the state.
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.
Spencer said earlier that the investigation revealed that it was a standard practice at Sky Express to put drivers who are too tired to drive behind the wheel of buses loaded with passengers.
According to federal court documents, Cheung has ties to a Brooklyn couple who are accused of running an operation that helped unqualified bus and truck drivers get licenses.
It is unclear if Cheung received his commercial driver’s licenses fraudulently, but he did receive his CDL shortly after passing a road test with a vehicle registered to N&Y Professional Service Line, which recently had its business license suspended while it is being investigated for fraud for helping drivers cheat on the written test.