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I–95 bus crash probe continues

MORE: Read more Stafford County news

State police say the driver of the discount bus that crashed early Monday in Stafford County doesn’t speak much English, an issue the Indiana-based bus company had already been cited for by federal transportation authorities.

Qilong Xiao, 50, of Flushing, N.Y., who was charged with reckless driving, “spoke very little English,” Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said in an email.

She said a trooper fluent in Mandarin helped investigators talk to the driver.

The driver posted the $5,000 bail and was released from the Rappahannock Regional Jail late Monday.

Questions remain about the 4 a.m. crash on snowy southbound lanes of Interstate 95 near the Stafford Regional Airport. The investigation is still in the early stages, Geller said.

She said the state police will turn over their findings to the Stafford Commonwealth’s Attorney and let him determine what to do from there.

Police are still working to determine the speed of the bus when it crashed, she said. The posted speed on Interstate 95 in that area is 65 mph. However, road conditions were slick as a storm dumped about five inches of snow on the region.

Passengers and police have said the driver was going too fast at the time. One passenger said that prior to the crash he had yelled for the driver to go slower.

At a news conference Monday, State Police Sgt. Les Tyler said Xiao “was driving too fast for the conditions.”

The southbound bus spun completely around on the slick road and overturned, landing on its side just north of the Centreport Parkway exit.

All lanes were shut down for hours while police worked on the overturned bus. The interstate reopened shortly after 8 a.m.

There were 58 passengers on the bus, which was headed from Brooklyn, N.Y., to a suburb of Atlanta. All the passengers were taken to area hospitals for evaluation or treatment.

Emergency crews from Stafford, Quantico and Prince William responded and Stafford school buses were brought in to help transport the passengers. Four of the victims suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

Another bus picked up the passengers who were able to continue their trip south later on Monday. The bus arrived at the final destination early Tuesday morning, a small strip mall in Doraville, Ga., according to WXIA television station in Atlanta.

Meanwhile, Indianapolis-based Princess Tours Inc. could face more problems.

In the past two years, Princess Tours has been cited by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for safety and other violations. But there are no records of crashes involving the company, which operates three buses.

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 for potential “intervention.”

Other federal citations involved log book violations and one for having a non-English-speaking driver.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

sshenk@freelancestar.com

 

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