Transportation Department officials say they were about to shut down a bus company who operated a coach that crashed on its way to New York City on Tuesday, but then gave the company extra time to appeal an unsatisfactory safety rating.
A timeline released Wednesday by the department indicates that without the extension Sky Express of Charlotte, N.C., would have been shut down before the crash that killed four passengers -- including three New York locals -- and injured dozens of other people.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says he is directing the department to end its practice of extending appeals periods for operators found to be unsafe.
According to the timeline, Sky Express' authority to operate would have been revoked last Saturday. The department gave the company an extra 10 days to appeal. Since the fatal crash, the bus company has been shut down.
The crash happened around 5 a.m. Tuesday, when the tour bus swerved off Interstate 95, hit an embankment and flipped over about 30 miles north of Richmond. Nearby hospitals treated more than 50 people from the crash, some of whom were released.
Four adult women were killed, including three from the tri-state area. The identities were released today; Karen Blyden-Decastro,46, of Cambria Heights, N.Y., Josefa Torres, 78, of Jamaica, Queens, Denny Estefany Martinez, 25, of Jersey City, N.J., and Sie Giok Giang, 63, of Philadelphia.
The bus driver, Kin Yiu Cheung, 37, of Flushing, was charged Tuesday with reckless driving. He is being held on $3,000 bond, law enforcement officials said. Driver fatigue is being cited as part of the reason behind the crash, but police were still investigating.
Federal records show Tuesday's fatal Virginia crash was the fifth highway accident involving the Sky Express bus company since last July.
All of the accidents happened on the I-95 corridor, including wrecks in Norwalk and Greenwich, Conn. The other crashes happened in Stafford County, Va., and Benson, N.C.
The latest crash prompted federal regulators to order the entire Sky Express fleet - 34 buses - off the nation's highways.