Driver in fatal Va. bus crash faces new charges

Kin Yiu Cheung, left, and his lawyer Murray Janus arrive at Caroline County court in Bowling Green, Va., for Cheung's arraignment Friday, June 3, 2011. Reza A. Marvasht,AP Photo/The Free Lance Star

BOWLING GREEN, Va. - The driver of a low-cost interstate bus service was charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter Friday following a brief court appearance on another charge stemming from this week's crash in Virginia that killed four passengers and injured dozens more.

Kin Yiu Cheung, 37, of Flushing, N.Y., had been free on bond, but he was arrested on the new charges shortly after appearing in Caroline County court Friday morning. Cheung was in court to answer to a misdemeanor reckless driving charge stemming from the Tuesday crash on Interstate 95 about 30 miles north of Richmond.

The new charges are felonies, each carrying a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

"It's never easy to make determinations to bring serious charges, but there was enough evidence to bring the charge," Caroline County Commonwealth Attorney Anthony Spencer said after Cheung's arrest.

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Police say Cheung was fatigued when the Sky Express bus he was driving swerved off the highway shortly before 5 a.m., hit an embankment and overturned. It had departed Greensboro, N.C., Monday night bound for New York City with 58 people.

Cheung's lawyer, Murray Janus, called the wreck a "tragic accident," adding he had not had time to talk to Cheung after his latest arrest.

Authorities declined to comment on their continuing investigation.

A spokeswoman for Sky Express did not immediately comment.

Transportation Department officials were in the process of shutting down the company at the time of the crash, but had given the Charlotte, N.C.-based company an extra 10 days to appeal an unsatisfactory safety rating.

A timeline released by the department earlier this week indicated that without the extension, Sky Express would have stopped operations the weekend before the crash. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has directed the department to stop extending appeals periods for operators found to be unsafe.

Following the crash, federal officials shut down the bus line.

Sky Express is part of an industry of inexpensive buses that travel the East Coast offering cheap fares, convenient routes and, in some cases, free wireless Internet. The industry is in the fifth year of a boom, but a string of deadly accidents also has prompted calls for tougher federal regulation.

According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records, Sky Express buses have been involved in four crashes with an injury or fatality - it didn't specify which - during the two-year period that ended May 20. The company also has been cited for 46 violations of drivers being fatigued over that same time, ranking it worse than 86 percent of similar companies in that category.

Virginia State Police have identified those killed in the crash as Karen Blyden-Decastro, 46, of Cambria Heights, N.Y.; Sie Giok Giang, 63, of Philadelphia; Josefa Torres, 78, of Jamaica, N.Y.; and Denny Estefany Martinez, 25, of Jersey City, N.J.

Cheung is expected to appear before a magistrate Friday, where prosecutors plan to ask that he be held without bond. A grand jury is to hear the latest charges on July 6.

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