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NTSB: More Than Fatigue At Play In 2011 Sky Express Crash

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The National Transportation Safety Board issued a scathing report in its finding of probable cause in the 2011 Sky Express tour bus crash that killed four passengers and injured dozens others when it flipped onto its roof on I-95 in Virginia. The board found blame with the driver, bus company, and federal regulators, saying the accident should not have happened because Sky Express should have been shut down already for repeated safety violations.

The driver of the Sky Express bus was working on only 6.5 hours of sleep and he was dozing off at the wheel, but he shouldn't have been on duty that day at all, because Sky Express should have been shut down already. The company was still operating even after being cited for 204 violations in the 10 months prior to the crash, according to NTSB records. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was working to shut the company down, but gave it a ten-day extension to fix safety problems.  The crash happened a couple days into the extension.

Board member Robert Sumwalt said the now-defunct company's nearly non-existent safety standards are also to blame for the rollover crash. "Sky Express has no written safety policies including no driver's handbook, they had no written drug and alcohol policy, they had no seatbelt policy, they had no cell phone policy," said Sumwalt.

NTSB chairwoman Deborah Hersman said such lax regulations are also to blame —  a problem that persists. "This accident happened in 2011. We still have not figured out how to get the worst of the worst off the road," Hersman said. Sky Express, which is now defunct, was fined several times over the years, but the $2100 in penalties did not make it run a safer operation, she said. "Clearly the penalty scheme is not a deterrent to putting tired drivers on the road or putting unsafe vehicles on the road because they continue to do it year after year after year."

The NTSB is recommending that bus companies adapt and federal regulators enforce stricter standards about drivers' sleep, heavier fines, and sturdier bus frames.  The four victims were killed when the overturned bus's roof caved in on them. Driver Kin Cheung, 37, faces four counts of involuntary manslaughter.

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