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Driver in discount-bus crash guilty of reckless driving

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The driver in the March bus crash that injured dozens on Interstate 95 near the Stafford Regional Airport pleaded guilty Friday to reckless driving.

Qilong Xiao entered the guilty plea in Stafford County General District Court, with the help of a Mandarin interpreter. As part of the plea agreement, Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Olsen dropped a charge of driving while disqualified.

The reckless driving charge carries a possible sentence of a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Xiao’s sentencing is set for Sept. 19.

The 50-year-old Flushing, N.Y., resident was taken off the road shortly after the crash because of his language problems, according to court records. His inability to speak English also led to the driving while disqualified charge.

Xiao was driving a discount bus for Princess Tours at about 4 a.m. on March 17 when it crashed on the snowy southbound lanes of I–95 near the regional airport.

Fifty-eight passengers were taken to area hospitals. Four of the victims suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

The Virginia 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,” Sgt. Les Tyler said at the time.

Passengers also told police they had warned Xiao to drive more slowly on the slushy interstate.

The bus owner, Indianapolis-based Princess Tours Inc., has been cited by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for safety violations and other transgressions in the past two years. But there are no records of other crashes involving Princess Tours, which has 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 Tours for potential “intervention.”

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration also cited the company for having another non-English-speaking driver.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

sshenk@freelancestar.com

 

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