DRIVER CHARGED IN I–95 BUS CRASH
A discount bus owned by an Indiana company with federal safety issues crashed on a snowy Interstate 95 in Stafford County early Monday morning, seriously injuring four passengers and shutting down all southbound lanes for four hours.
Dozens of others on the bus were treated and released from area hospitals.
State police said speed was a factor in the crash, one of hundreds of incidents statewide during the St. Patrick’s Day storm that dumped about 5 inches of snow in the Fredericksburg area.
“He was driving too fast for the conditions,” Virginia State Police Sgt. Les Tyler said of the bus driver.
Qilong Xiao, 50, of Flushing, N.Y., was charged with reckless driving. After he refused treatment at the scene, Xiao was taken to the Rappahannock Regional Jail and held on a $5,000 bond.
The crash happened just after 4 a.m. when the southbound bus spun completely around on the slick road and overturned, landing on its side.
Tyler said the bus sustained “extensive damage.”
The crash happened just north of the Centreport Parkway exit and shut down all three lanes, he said. The interstate reopened shortly after 8 a.m.
There were 58 passengers on the bus, which was headed from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Doraville, Ga. Stafford County school buses were used to transport all of the passengers to area hospitals. Four of the victims suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center treated 22 of the riders. The hospital said all were in stable condition and expected to be released Monday, officials said.
Mary Washington Hospital treated 17 of the passengers and Stafford Hospital cared for seven. The rest were taken to hospitals outside the immediate area.
The bus, a 2005 Van Hool, is owned by Princess Tours Inc., based in Indianapolis.
The bus line has been cited by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for safety and other violations in the past two years. But there are no records of crashes involving Princess Tours, which has a fleet of three buses.
“I’m sorry for what happened, but we are in the process of getting everything together right now,” said a woman who answered the phone for Princess Tours Inc. She declined to identify herself or give further comment.
According to the motor carrier administration’s records, Princess Tours bus drivers have been ticketed three times for speeding in the past two years, once for traveling at least 15 mph over the speed limit. For those violations, the federal transportation authority flagged Princess Tours for potential “intervention.”
Other federal citations involved log violations and one for having a non-English speaking driver.
Monday’s crash happened nearly three years after the 2011 Sky Express bus crash in Caroline County on I–95 in which four women died.
Sky Express, a discount bus company with a poor safety record before the deadly crash, was cited for numerous violations and forced out of business.
The driver of that bus, Kin Yiu Cheung of Elmhurst, N.Y., said he fell asleep while driving. He was later convicted of four counts of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison.
The Sky Express crash led to calls for improved federal oversight of the inter-city bus industry, especially discount bus companies, which have had a history of safety problems.
New federal regulations have since been enacted, including harsher penalties for violators and a requirement that new buses be equipped with seat belts.
Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436