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.
Sky Express documents made public
Previously sealed information from the May 2011 fatal bus crash in Caroline County has been made public.
The National Transportation Safety Board opened the public docket Friday afternoon that reveals factual information about the Sky Express bus crash on Interstate 95 that left four people dead and many others injured on May 31, 2011.
The information does not provide any analysis information, but does include interview summaries, factual investigative reports, 67 photographs and other documents related to the case.
Here’s a link to the public docket.
Additional material will be added as it becomes available, according to spokesman Nicholas Worrell of the National Transportation Safety Board. Analysis of the accident, along with conclusions and a determination of probable cause will come after the final report on the investigation is completed, Worrell said.
Sky Express dispatcher, Zhao Jian Chen, 41, and driver, Kin Yiu Cheung, 37, each face four counts of involuntary manslaughter.
Cheung 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.
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.”
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.
Cheung is scheduled for trial in Caroline Circuit Court on June 25 and Chen on Oct. 31.
A $500,000 lawsuit was filed in February by 23-year-old passenger Shirley M. Dai, who said she suffered “very serious injuries and significant emotional and mental distress” as a result of the crash. Documents released Friday report that she sustained a fractured right hip and lacerations to her head.
After last year’s crash, the federal governement twice shut down Sky Express, which had tried to operate under a different name.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced on the one-year anniversary of this crash that it had shut down 26 interstate bus operators, deeming them “imminent hazards to public safety.”
The current crackdown on the bus companies turned up safety violations, improper alcohol and drug testing programs, inadequate vehicle inspections and repairs and problems with driver qualifications and hours of service compliance, the motor carrier administration said in a release.