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June 4, 2011

The deaths of four passengers in a tour bus crash on their way to New York City last week has resulted in four charges of involuntary manslaughter for the bus driver, reports the Richmond Times Dispatch.

The bus driver, Kin Yiu Cheung, 37, of Flushing, NY could face up to ten years in prison for each charge.

The bus crash occurred in the early morning hours Tuesday, May 31 on Interstate 95 north of Richmond, VA as a tour bus carrying 58 passenger traveled from Greenboro, NC to New York City. The bus veered off the highway, hit an embankment and flipped over, killing four women and injuring the remaining 54 passengers.

Virginia State Police identified the women killed as Karen Blyden-Decastro, 46, of Cambria Heights, NY; Sie Giok Giang, 63, of Philadelphia, PA; Josefa Torres, 78, of Jamaica, NY; and Denny Estefany Martinez, 25, of Jersey City, NJ.

Authorities blame the accident on driver fatigue and suggest speed may also have contributed.

Cheung has a history of traffic violations, including four speeding tickets.

NY1 reports that Sky Express attempted to continue tour operations in violation of U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) out of service orders by resuming ticket sales and tour operations under different company names, 108 Tours and 108 Bus, and painting its buses. The agency has since issued a cease-and-desist order.

The DOT was in the process of shutting Sky Express down for an unsatisfactory safety rating when the crash occurred, but had allowed the company an extra ten days to appeal the action, according to a CBS News article.

In response to a series of bus crashes, the New York State Senate passed a bill on Thursday requiring all bus drivers submit to a criminal background check. The legislation now goes before the Assembly for consideration.

“Bus drivers literally hold their passengers’ lives and safety in their hands; those passengers should be able to trust that the driver is qualified to handle that responsibility,” said Senator Fuschillo, Chairman of the Senate’s Transportation Committee. “Bus companies deserve to have all the relevant information about a driver’s background when they decide to make that driver responsible for passengers’ safety. Helping to weed out drivers who don’t belong behind the wheel of a bus will help improve safety for bus passengers and everyone else on the roads.”

According to Senator Fuschillo’s office, the New York State Department of Transportation issued 197 tickets and pulled 173 bus drivers and 143 buses off the road in 1,960 surprise roadside inspections since March 17.

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