National

Feds ban SkyExpress buses from U.S. highways

A Charlotte-based bus company has been ordered off the road after one of its fleet flipped early Tuesday, killing four passengers and injuring 54.

In making the move, federal transportation officials noted multiple safety violations by SkyExpress Inc. The company has been involved in four previous accidents and cited for dozens of violations in the past two years.

"Safety is our number one priority," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement. "We will use every resource at our disposal to pursue and remove from our roads unsafe, reckless bus companies."

Anne Ferro, head of the DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, said her agency partnered with N.C. law enforcement to shut down the company. Her agency, she said, "will not tolerate passenger bus companies that endanger public safety."

The SkyExpress bus that wrecked originated in Charlotte and stopped in Raleigh before it ran off Interstate 95, about 30 miles north of Richmond, Va.

Authorities charged the driver, Kin Yiu Cheung, 37, with reckless driving. He is being held on a $3,000 bond at Pamunkey Regional Jail in Hanover County, Va. Investigators cited fatigue as a cause and ruled out mechanical problems.

The names of the four women who died were not released. The injured passengers were taken to 11 hospitals in Fredericksburg, Richmond, and Hopewell for treatment. Some of the injuries are serious.

SkyExpress, incorporated in 2004, uses 31 coaches to carry riders from Carolinas' cities to New York. For a $30 ticket, passengers can take one of three daily buses from Charlotte to New York's Chinatown.

The National Transportation Safety Board has launched an investigation. Earl Weener, a member of the NTSB team conducting the probe, said, "Our mission is to understand not just how this happened, but why it happened."

SkyExpress officials said the company intends to cooperate with the investigation.

To read the complete article, visit www.charlotteobserver.com.

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