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National Transportation Board releases investigation details of the fatal Sky Express crash and calls for improvements in oversight of the bus industry
Sky Express had been cited for 46 fatigued-driver violations over two-year period before this fatal crash on Interstate 95 in Caroline County last year.
FILE/ROBERT A. MARTIN/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 8/1/2012
WASHINGTON--The blame for the fatal May 2011 Sky Express bus crash in Caroline County was spread around Tuesday not just to the driver and bus company, but to federal safety regulators, as well.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigation found that the North Carolina-based Sky Express failed to heed safety and training standards, the fatigued driver failed to react properly when he couldn't stay awake and that federal regulators failed to keep the rogue company, and others like it, from putting dangerous buses on the road.
During the meeting, the NTSB board made several recommendations, calling for increased safety measures and regulations aimed at unsafe operations like Sky Express.
"The sad news, however, is the crash we discuss today should never have happened," said NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman, "It was entirely preventable. Those travelers were failed at three levels: by the driver, by the operator and by the regulator."
The NTSB investigation pinpointed fatigued driving as the cause of the fatal crash, which happened shortly before 5 a.m. on May 31, 2011, on Interstate 95.
The bus originated in Greensboro, N.C., and was headed for Chinatown in New York City with 58 passengers when it ran off northbound I-95 near Doswell. It hit a wire cable barrier and rolled over onto its roof, crushing it and blowing out all of the windows.
Four women were killed and another 14 passengers suffered serious injuries. The investigation determined that two of the women killed in the crash were partially ejected and the other two were trapped between the top of the seat backs and the crushed roof.
The NTSB investigation found structural safety problems with the Sky Express bus and others in the industry, including a lack of safety belts and adequate roof strength, a problem advocates have been pointing out for years.
The NTSB investigation detailed a chain of problems that led to the Sky Express crash.
First, the investigators and NTSB board members ripped into Sky Express, calling it the worst of the worst.
The investigation showed that Sky Express failed to adequately institute safety protocols, training and a drug and alcohol program. The company also did not properly keep logs and other records, which allowed drivers to get behind the wheel of Sky Express buses without having enough sleep.