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Trial delayed for dispatcher charged as accessory in fatal Sky Express bus crash

 State police investigate the fatal Sky Express bus crash last year. The driver and dispatcher face charges.
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Date published: 6/1/2012


The June trial of a Sky Express dispatcher charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter in a fatal bus crash last year has been postponed until October.

A two-day jury trial for 41-year-old Zhao Jian Chen had been scheduled to begin June 18 in Caroline County Circuit Court. But a judge on Wednesday continued it until Oct. 30 after defense attorney Ted Bruns said he found a new witness that he needed to interview.

A hearing was also set for Sept. 25 to review the status of the case.

Chen, of Greensboro, N.C., is accused of ordering bus driver Kin Yiu Cheung, 38, to drive the Sky Express bus last May 31 from North Carolina to New York, even though Cheung told him he was too tired.

Although Chen was not driving, Caroline Commonwealth's Attorney Tony Spencer said earlier that the fact that Chen ordered Cheung to drive that day makes him "an accessory before the fact, which makes him just as liable as the driver."

Due to overwhelming media attention and a request by the defense, a judge has since imposed a gag order on the attorneys to ensure Chen and Cheung get a fair trial.

Chen was indicted in September by a Caroline grand jury. The driver, Cheung, is also charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter. If convicted, both men face up to 40 years in prison.

Cheung has a June 25 court hearing scheduled. He told state police he was tired and dozed off before the wreck about 5 o'clock that morning on Interstate 95 in Caroline County, according to court documents.

The bus ran off the right side of the highway near the Carmel Church exit, hit an embankment and overturned, landing on its roof.

Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corrine Geller said fatigue was a factor in the crash and that speed is what made the bus flip. The speed limit in the crash area is 70 mph.

Of the 58 passengers aboard the bus, 53 were taken to 11 hospitals across the state. Killed in the crash were 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.

A $500,000 lawsuit was filed in February by passenger Shirley M. Dai, who said she suffered "very serious injuries and significant emotional and mental distress" as a result of the crash. Her attorney, John Shea, said her pelvis was fractured.

Portsia Smith: 540/374-5419
Email: psmith@fredericksburg.com