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Bus driver given six-year sentence in fatal crash

The driver of the Sky Express bus that overturned and killed four passengers on Interstate 95 in Caroline County in May 2011 was sentenced today to six years in prison.

Kin Yiu Cheung, 38 was given a sentence of  40 years in prison – 10 years for each person killed – but Judge Joseph Ellis suspended all but six years.

Cheung was convicted in Caroline County Circuit Court in  November  of four counts of manslaughter. At the end of the nearly four-hour trial, Judge Ellis told Cheung he found his conduct “to be so gross and wanton” that he had to find him guilty of all four counts.

Cheung  had admitted earlier that he fell asleep while driving the Sky Express bus on a nearly nine-hour, low-fare bus ride from Raleigh, N.C., to New York City nearly two years ago. He lost control of the bus and it overturned, killing four passengers.

In sentencing Cheung, Judge Ellis said, “This wasn’t an issue of chance. This was an issue of choice.”

Before his sentencing, Cheung said that “each day of my life is haunted by this memory … and I want to apologize to all the passengers.”

At his trial in November, Caroline Commonwealth’s Attorney Tony Spencer argued that  Cheung knew he was too tired to be behind the wheel and ignored the danger to his passengers.

“The first time he realized he had trouble driving, he has a duty to pull over and he didn’t,” the prosecutor said.

The crash resulted in congressional hearings about bus safety and the National Transportation Board conducted an investigation into the crash.

The NTSB investigation found that the North Carolina-based Sky Express failed to heed safety and training standards, the fatigued driver failed to react properly when he couldn’t stay awake and that federal regulators failed to keep the rogue company, and others like it, from putting dangerous buses on the road.