Silver Calls Passage of Senate Bus Bill “Knee Jerk Reaction”

Photo: Virginia State Police

This week’s deadly bus crash in Virginia has finally prompted New York State Republicans to approve legislation beefing up safety standards on discount interstate bus lines.  Yesterday, the GOP-controlled Senate voted in favor of a bill that would require all commercial drivers to undergo background checks.

On Tuesday, the same day a Sky Express bus careened off a Virginia highway, Lower East Side elected officials gathered in Chinatown, urging the Senate to act. Back in April, the Assembly passed legislation authorizing the City Council to set up a permit system for interstate bus comapnies operating in the city.  Senator Daniel Squadron, who represents Chinatown and the LES, Introduced an identical bill, but it had been held up in committee.  The legislation approved yesterday was not his proposal but a far more limited bill sponsored by Republican Senator Charles Fuschillo.

Follow-up: Sky Express Bus Accident

The Sky Express depot on Chrystie Street. Photo by WNYC

Details are beginning to emerge about the safety record of Sky Express bus company and the four women killed in its tragic crash early Tuesday morning on Interstate 95 in Virginia en route from North Carolina to Chinatown.

Feds Shut Down Sky Express Buses After Crash

The Sky Express bus hit an embankment and rolled on I-95. Photo: Reuters

In the wake of yesterday’s fatal bus crash in Virginia, in which driver fatigue is blamed, federal regulators announced late Tuesday that Sky Express Bus company would be forced to cease operations. The accident early yesterday morning on Interstate 95 just north of Richmond killed four people and injured at least 50 other passengers en route from Greensboro, N.C., to New York City.

“The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will not tolerate passenger bus companies that endanger public safety,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “Working side-by-side with our North Carolina state law enforcement partners, we took strong action to shut down this unsafe bus company.”

Another Bus Crash, Another Call for Legislative Action

In the wake of another tragic bus accident, the neighborhood’s elected officials gathered in Chinatown today to renew their calls for stronger laws regulating interstate bus companies. More on their pleas in a moment.

First, there have been some other developments in Virginia, where the crash happened early this morning. The driver, Kin Ku Cheung of Flushing,  was arrested and charged with reckless driving. He’s jailed  in Hanover County, Virginia, on $3,000 bond. Cheung, who was wearing a seat belt, suffered minor injuries. Investigators are blaming the crash on driver fatigue.

Last Crash Victim Buried; Life “Beneath the Radar” Recounted

Seven weeks after the tragic casino bus accident in the Bronx, friends and loved ones gathered in Chinatown yesterday to remember Wang Jianhua, the last of 15 victims to be buried.  The funeral was delayed while his widow waited for a visa to travel from her home in China’s Fujian Province.

Council Committee Urges State to Establish Permitting System for Intercity Buses

This past weekend on Canal Street; police pulled over discount buses for inspection.

A City Council committee this morning gave a boost to proposed state legislation that would allow New York City to set up a permitting system for intercity buses. This afternoon, the full Council will vote on the so-called “home rule” resolution, calling on Albany to pass the bills now before lawmakers in Albany. Pushing through the bus regulation bill has taken on greater urgency in light of the horrible accident in the Bronx March 12th that left 15 passengers dead.

On the Road, Discount Bus Drivers are Pushed to the Limit

Today’s New York Times has an unsettling but not very surprising piece on the unsafe conditions and lack of regulation plaguing the interstate bus industry. In the aftermath of the deadly accident in the Bronx, the issue has become a national priority (it remains to be seen for how long).  A few excerpts:

Speaker Silver on Rent Laws, Restoring Senior Center Funding, Bus Crash Investigation

This morning, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver rallied at City Hall with fellow lawmakers and housing activists to push for the extension and expansion of rent regulation laws. They stood with representatives from the Community Service Society, which has just released a report “documenting rent-stabilized housing’s critical role in protecting millions of working New Yorkers.”  Tomorrow, we’ll have more on the report and the rent law battle in Albany.

Following the rally, Speaker Silver commented on two other stories we’ve been following.

Silver’s Statement on Today’s Bus Crash

From State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver:

I want to express my deepest condolences to those who have lost loved ones in this absolutely horrific tragedy that has devastated our community. I hope and pray that those who have been injured are able to recover. My office has been working with local organizations in Chinatown, as well as with the authorities, to provide as much assistance and comfort as possible to the families who have been affected and I will continue to do everything I can to help them during this awful time. I would also like to thank the men and women of the NYPD, particularly officers from the Fifth Precinct, as well as the State Police, for their tireless dedication and for the compassion they have shown for those who are suffering.

Chin Releases Statement on Bronx Bus Crash

We just received a statement from District 1 City Councilmember Margaret Chin concerning this morning’s deadly bus crash:

I am deeply saddened to learn of the terrible accident that occurred early this morning. My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones and to all those injured in this tragic accident. The details of this morning’s bus crash are truly frightening. In the aftermath of this devastating loss, our community must pull together and support the families and friends of the victims. I ask the media and public to respect the privacy of the victims’ families while they grieve the loss of their loved ones. I also want to thank the New York State Police, NYPD, and emergency personnel for their quick response and work on the scene. I want to recognize the Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs, 5th Precinct, and Red Cross Disaster Relief for providing support to those affected by this tragedy.” A Family Assistance Center has been established at the 5th Precinct, 19 Elizabeth Street between Canal Street and Bayard Street. NYPD transport is being provided to Jacobi and St. Barnabas hospitals for families of the victims. Counselors are also available.

Bus Involved in Fatal Crash Headed for Chinatown

You may have heard that bus that crashed in the Bronx early this morning, killing at least 13 people, was headed for the Lower East Side. It was returning from the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut, on the New England Thuway, when a tractor-trailer struck the bus from behind.  The World Wide Tours charter flipped over and hit a light pole. In addition to the fatalities, six passengers were hospitalized in critical condition.

According to news reports, the bus’s first stop was Allen Street near the Bowery. It was then scheduled to make additional stops elsewhere in Chinatown. If you think a friend or loved one might have been on board, city officials say you should call 311. You can also contact the 5th Precinct, located at 19 Elizabeth Street in Chinatown. The phone number is 212-334-0711.

UPDATE 3:50PM The New York Times adds more details this afternoon:

World Wide Tours (based in Brooklyn) was recently flagged by federal regulators for troubles with fatigued drivers, although its overall safety record was satisfactory, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The company’s buses were involved in two crashes in the past two years that resulted in passenger injuries, though details were not immediately available. In addition to chartered tours, the company offers inexpensive transportation between New York, Cambridge, Mass.; and Newton, Mass.; with perks like wireless Internet and power outlets.