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Feds Shut Down Sky Express Buses After Crash

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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.”

Sky Express Bus, which is based in Charlotte, N.C., and has a depot on Chrystie Street, has a dismal safety record and played a starring role in a May 6 Raleigh News & Observer story about the stepped-up enforcement of bus safety by federal authorities.

During the first two weeks of May, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies partnered to conduct 3,000 surprise passenger carrier safety inspections that resulted in 442 unsafe buses or drivers being pulled off the road. Authorities issued out-of-service citations to 127 drivers and 315 vehicles as part of the effort, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The driver in the Virginia accident has been charged with reckless driving and is suspected of falling asleep at the wheel. The resulting tragedy has re-ignited scrutiny of New York City’s discount bus companies, which began in March when another company’s bus crashed on the interstate in the Bronx. That incident killed 15 passengers who were headed back to Chinatown from a Connecticut casino.

Yesterday’s announcement that Sky Express would be parked followed closely on the heels of a call to action to the New York State Senate yesterday afternoon by downtown Manhattan elected officials pushing for passage of a bill that would empower the city to more closely regulate the discount intercity bus services that flourish in Chinatown. The bill has cleared the State Assembly but is held up by the Republican-controlled Senate.

The identities of the passengers killed in yesterday’s crash have not been released; the injured are being cared for at 11 hospitals in the Richmond and Fredericksburg areas. Meanwhile, would-be passengers keep showing up at the Sky Express Chrystie Street station.

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