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Free Lance-Star reporter Robyn Sidersky covers Caroline County government and schools. You can reach her at 540/374-5413 or rsidersky@freelancestar.com. You can follow coverage on Facebook or Twitter as well.

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Bus dispatcher trial continued

The June trial of a Sky Express dispatcher charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter has been continued to October.

A two-day jury trial for 41-year-old Zhao Jian Chen had been scheduled for June 18 at Caroline County Circuit Court, but it was continued to Oct. 30 on Wednesday during a pre-trial hearing.

It was continued because defense attorney Ted Bruns said they found a new witness that they needed to interview. A hearing was also set for Sept. 25 to review the status of the case.

The Greensboro, N.C. man is accused of ordering bus driver Kin Yiu Cheung, 38, to drive the Sky Express bus last May 31 from North Carolina to New York, even though Cheung told him he was too tired.

Although Chen was not driving, Caroline Commonwealth’s Attorney Tony Spencer said earlier that the fact that Chen ordered Cheung to drive that day makes him “an accessory before the fact, which makes him just as liable as the driver.”

Chen was indicted in September by a Caroline grand jury. The driver, Cheung, is also charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Both men face up to 40 years in prison.

Cheung has a June 25 court hearing scheduled. He told state police he was tired and dozed off before the wreck about 5 o’clock that morning on Interstate 95 in Caroline County, according to court documents.

When Cheung woke up, the court documents 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. The speed limit in the crash area is 70 mph.

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.

A $500,000 lawsuit was filed in February by passenger Shirley M. Dai, who said she suffered “very serious injuries and significant emotional and mental distress” as a result of the crash. Her attorney John Shea said her pelvis was fractured.

Due to overwhelming media attention and a request by the defense, a gag order was put into effect to ensure Chen and Cheung get a fair trial, so the attorneys are not allowed to discuss the case outside of the courtroom.

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/carolinecrossroads/2012/05/31/bus-dispatcher-trial-continued/