BOWLING GREEN, VA (PIX11)—Four passengers on a motor coach bus died and more than 50 others were injured after the driver fell asleep at the wheel, hit an embankment and flipped the bus over according to authorities.
The incident happened just before 5 a.m. Tuesday when the bus, operated by Sky Express, crashed in Virginia on its way to New York City from North Carolina. The destination in Chinatown closed down around 4:30 yesterday afternoon, even though more trips were on the schedule. Several passengers were left stranded.
"It's a concern because I needed to get somewhere today," Shaka George, a passenger from New Jersey who paid Sky Express for a ticket, said.
The main concern for state legislators is the lack of regulation for these types of buses. It's the second deadly tour bus accident this month, the fourth involving buses that pick up and drop off passengers in Manhattan, in the last three months. Two accidents in March killed a total of 17 people. State leaders are pushing to pass a bill, already passed in the State Assembly, to create a first-ever permit system for intercity buses.
"We would like the authority to have the buses regularly inspected here... to know that seat belts are operative...we don't have that authority right now," Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) said.
A check on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website showed four crashes including one fatality for Sky Express Inc. based in North Carolina within the last two years. There were 17 unsafe driving violations and 46 violations for fatigued driving including three serious cases. The driver of Tuesday's accident, Kin Yiu Cheung of Queens, 37, has been charged with reckless driving and is cooperating with investigators.
Our inquiries into why the company with 34 buses and 53 drivers was allowed to continue to operate despite continued violations were not immediately returned.
Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York)is asking the U.S. Department of Transportation to speed up new regulation that would limit the hours commercial drivers can be behind the wheel. Schumer is also co-sponsoring a federal bill to create training for commercial drivers. No training exists currently. The U.S. Department of Transportstion now requires commercial drivers to first earn a learners permit. Authorities can also suspend the licenses of drivers who have a drug or alcohol offense even in their personal cars.
There have been 2800 spot safety checks between March and April and it has led to 10% of vehicles or drivers being taken off the road.
Travelers who like the $30 a trip price are mixed about whether to hop aboard again.
"If it were open, I would, yes," George said.
"I took a chance because the airlines were booked but I wouldn't risk my life again," Tenia Geter of Long Island said
For anyone planning to take a trip on a tour bus, a new website by the DOT allows you to review bus company's safety records before hopping aboard. Below is the link where you can find more information.