State News

4 killed when NY-bound bus flips on I-95 in Va.

Posted May 31, 2011 11:17 a.m. EDT
Updated May 31, 2011 9:49 p.m. EDT

— A commercial tour bus traveling to New York City went off Interstate 95 in Virginia and flipped on its roof before dawn Tuesday, killing four people and injuring many more, state police said.

Sgt. Thomas Molnar says 58 people were on board, including the driver. The injured were taken to 11 Richmond and Fredericksburg-area hospitals. Duffel bags, luggage and broken glass still littered the highway hours after the crash.

The Sky Express Inc. bus was en route from Greensboro, N.C., to New York City's Chinatown when it strayed off the interstate, hit an embankment and flipped, Molnar told reporters at a briefing. The bus has since been righted but remains at the scene.

The bus left Greensboro at 10:30 p.m. Monday night. It had seatbelts for the driver but not for the passengers.

State police believe the likely cause was driver fatigue but are still investigating, Molnar said. He said the driver, who hasn't been identified, suffered minor injuries and is cooperating with the probe. The driver has not been charged, Molnar said.

The deaths come about two and a half months after a horrific New York City accident that focused attention on bus safety. In that March 12 crash, a speeding bus returning to Chinatown from a Connecticut casino toppled off an elevated highway and hit a utility pole, peeling off the roof. Fifteen passengers were killed and 18 injured.

Federal authorities say nearly 2,800 spot safety checks of passenger buses across the country from March 28 through April 6 resulted in about 10 percent of the vehicles or drivers being taken off the road.

David Wong, a manager in the Sky Express office in Charlotte, N.C., declined to comment. A telephone message left Tuesday for his attorney, Ruth Yang, wasn't immediately returned.

Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center has 10 people in stable condition, but no details were released about the extent of their injuries. VCU spokeswoman Anne Buckley says the hospital expects more patients to be transferred there from other hospitals.

Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg treated eight patients, whose injuries ranged from critical to minor. Spokeswoman Deborah Morris says one has been released. Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center officials said in a release that it treated eight people for minor injuries.

The accident shut down the northbound lanes of I-95, which weren't expected to reopen for several hours.

State troopers arrested Pavion R. O'Connor, of Raleigh, N.C., at the crash scene for obstruction of justice and resisting arrest. Authorities said O'Connor was standing in the open travel lanes of I-95 and taking photos of the wreck. He refused to move and then began struggling with troopers who were trying to escort him out of the roadway.