I-95 bus crash survivor speaks out

Carmela Saravia survived the bus crash. (Photo: WJLA)

Carmela Saravia thought she was dead.

The 87-year-old was traveling on the Sky Express bus Tuesday that crashed on I-95 in Virginia, killing four and injuring several dozen passengers. Saravia was on her way back to New York after visiting with her family in North Carolina and was sleeping when the crash occurred.

“I was sleeping and all of sudden I just saw myself in the middle of the road,” she said. “I thought I was dead.”

The bus ran off the roadway and overturned on I-95 in Caroline County, landing on its roof shortly before 5 a.m. Police say driver fatigue contributed to the crash.

The driver, Kin Yiu Cheung, 37, of Flushing, N.Y., suffered minor injuries and was treated at the scene. He has been charged with reckless driving and is being held on a $3,000 bond at the Pamunkey Regional Jail in Hanover County.

Sky Express, the bus operator, has been prohibited from operating interstate transportation after the crash.

On Wednesday, authorities identified the victims who died in the crash. They are 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.

Speaking through an interpreter from the ICU at Mary Washington Hospital in Frederickburg, Saravia, originally from Honduras, says she hurt her neck and hip when she was thrown from her seat in the back of the bus.

She was riding with her two great-grandchildren, who were also injured in the crash. One suffered a broken arm and the other had scratches on the face.

Yet as battered and bruised as she is, Saravia said she’s grateful to still be alive.

Sky Express offers $30 bus trips between New York and 15 cities in North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. It also goes to Washington, D.C.

The company has been involved in several accidents over the last two years, the Associated Press reports. It also has been cited for 46 violations for drivers being fatigued, which police believe contributed to this crash.

Sky Express Inc. buses have been involved in four crashes, with one injury or fatality during the two-year period that ended May 20, according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records. Its drivers have been cited for 17 unsafe-driving violations, including eight speeding violations, since 2009. Three of the 46 violations for fatigued driving were classified as serious. There were also 110 vehicle maintenance violations.

Sky Express also was cited for 120 vehicle-maintenance violations, including one classified as serious. The National Transportation Board was investigating Tuesday's crash. The bus had no passenger seat belts, only for the driver.

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Steve Keppler, Executive Director with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, says his group has been pushing Congress to make it federal law for law enforcement to do roadside commercial safety stops on busses, similar to what they do now for truckers.

They'll use this crash and the one in New York a few months ago as further reason why this law needs to be enacted.