State News

Survivor of Virginia bus wreck is UNC student

Posted June 2, 2011 4:11 p.m. EDT
Updated June 2, 2011 6:42 p.m. EDT

— A student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was among those involved in a Virginia bus crash early Tuesday that killed four people and injured 20 others.

Riley Zecca, a 21-year-old junior, was headed to a New York with a friend when the SkyExpress bus, with 58 people on board, swerved off Interstate 95, hit an embankment and flipped over on Interstate 95, about 30 miles north of Richmond.

Zecca said Thursday that he can't understand how he walked away from the crash.

"I was told the bus flipped about three times and then landed on the roof," he said. "But I don't recall that. I don't know if I blacked out. It just happened so quickly that I couldn't really process it."

"I just crawled out, and I had blood all over my face and neck and shirt," he added.

Authorities are blaming driver fatigue as part of the reason for the crash. Zecca said a passenger apparently bought a ticket from the driver eight hours before the bus left.

"So, he was working that whole time and then started to drive our bus for another nine hours, which is a crazy shift," Zecca said. "No one should do that, especially if they're driving a bus at night."

It's why Pavion O'Connor, a Raleigh man arrested after the crash for taking pictures, believes he has a case against the bus company.

His attorney, Kevin Goldberg, said SkyExpress has a long history of safety violations and that there had been proposed action to operate the company's operating status.

"I'm angry, and I know the families of those who were injured and killed are very angry that this SkyExpress wasn't taken out service before this crash," Goldberg said. "That's what should have happened."

According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records, Charlotte-based SkyExpress Inc. buses have been involved in four crashes, with one injury or fatality during the two-year period that ended May 20.

Its drivers have been cited for 17 unsafe-driving violations, including eight speeding violations, since 2009. Three of the 46 violations for fatigued driving were classified as serious.

SkyExpress also was cited for 120 vehicle-maintenance violations, including one classified as serious.

"I just had the expectation, that if there are all these violations that whatever organization was overseeing this would shut it down," Zecca said. "I mean, if this was the first time this happened, I would understand why they didn't shut it down, or at least sanction them in such a way that they would have to fix their problems."