- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 6, 2011

RICHMOND — The trial of a driver of an interstate bus that crashed in Virginia, killing four passengers and injuring dozens more, has been postponed until January.

Kin Yiu Cheung, 37, of New York was scheduled for a trial by judge next week on four felony counts of involuntary manslaughter stemming from the May crash. Caroline County prosecutor Tony Spencer said Tuesday that the trial has been postponed until Jan. 26.

Also on Tuesday, officials at Pamunkey Regional Jail said Mr. Cheung had been transferred out of the lockup in which he’s been held without bond since June but wouldn’t provide any other details.

Mr. Spencer would not comment or provide further details on Mr. Cheung’s transfer or the delay in the case. Spencer had previously opposed bond because he said Mr. Cheung, who lived in New York with his wife and two children, was a flight risk.

Messages to Mr. Cheung’s attorneys were not immediately returned Tuesday.

Court records show Mr. Cheung acknowledged to police that he fell asleep at the wheel when the low-fare Sky Express bus from Greensboro, N.C., to New York City swerved off Interstate 95 about 30 miles north of Richmond, hit an embankment and overturned with 60 people aboard May 31.

Mr. Cheung pleaded not guilty to the charges in July and his attorneys have called the incident a “terrible accident and a tragedy.”

Mr. Cheung’s attorneys also had asked a judge to suppress any statements he made, claiming he was denied access to counsel and wasn’t properly advised of his rights. A hearing on that motion has not been set.

If convicted, Mr. Cheung faces up to 10 years in prison for each felony count, one for each of the women killed in the early morning crash. Additionally, he is charged with misdemeanor reckless driving.

Virginia State Police have identified those killed in the crash as Karen Blyden-Decastro, 46, of Cambria Heights, N.Y.; Sie Giok Giang, 63, of Philadelphia; Josefa Torres, 78, of Jamaica, N.Y.; and Denny Estefany Martinez, 25, of Jersey City, N.J.

Transportation Department officials were in the process of shutting down the company at the time of the crash, but had given the Charlotte, N.C., company an extra 10 days to appeal an unsatisfactory safety rating.

A timeline released by the department indicated that without the extension, Sky Express would have ceased operations the weekend before the crash. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has directed the department to stop extending appeals periods for operators found to be unsafe.

Following the crash, federal officials shut down the bus line and then issued a cease-and-desist order against the company after finding it was trying to sell tickets under other names.

Sky Express is part of an industry of inexpensive buses that travel the East Coast offering cheap fares, convenient routes and, in some cases, free wireless Internet. The industry is in the fifth year of a boom, but a string of deadly accidents has prompted calls for tougher federal regulation.

According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records, Sky Express buses had been involved in four crashes with an injury or fatality — it didn’t specify which — during the two-year period that ended May 20. The company also had been cited for 46 violations of drivers being fatigued over that same period, ranking it worse than 86 percent of commercial motor carriers.

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