Two people died and more than 50 suffered injuries after a charter bus crash in Virginia on Tuesday, Mar. 19, 2019. The crash reportedly occurred at 5:22 am in dense fog as the bus, traveling from Orlando to New York City, left Interstate 95. The bus driver now faces manslaughter charges as investigators work to determine what caused the Virginia charter bus crash. Meanwhile, some residents say they think a confusing sign might have contributed to the accident.
The tragedy is a stark reminder of the catastrophic consequences of charter bus crashes and the importance of bus safety, regardless of whether the buses are transporting adults or children.
Charter Bus Overturned on Exit from I-95
Virginia State Police say the charter bus, operated by Tao’s Travel Inc., overturned as it exited Interstate 95 in Prince George County in the early hours of Mar. 19. The bus reportedly took the exit, then veered off the left side of the exit ramp before it flipped over.
Officials say the bus had 57 people on board, with ages ranging from toddler to senior. One person died at the scene and another died in the hospital. All remaining passengers were transported to the hospital with varying degrees of injury from minor to severe. At least two of the injured had life-threatening injuries, and officials deemed 12 survivors “critical.”
The charter bus had left Orlando, Florida, and made a stop in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, to allow for a driver switch.
Victims of Virginia Charter Bus Crash Identified
Officials identified the deceased as:
- Janetta Cumberbatch, an 81-year-old from Jamaica, Queens, and
- Su Feng Xu, a Chinese national
Cumberbatch was on her way home from a family wedding in Florida when the bus crashed. Her family remembered her as kind-hearted and generous, and having a love of travel. Cumberbatch’s cousin was also on the bus and suffered serious injuries. Medical staff placed her in an induced coma.
The bus driver, Yui Man Chow, a 40-year-old from Staten Island, faces two charges of involuntary manslaughter but was released on bond shortly after the crash. He did not suffer injuries.
Survivors Describe Bus Swerving
Survivors who were able to talk to reporters following the crash described the bus speeding along the exit and flipping over.
“All I know, I went to close my eyes and we were moving too fast,” said Monique Berry, of Harlem, New York. “It swerved like a roller coaster. We tumbled five or six times. It wasn’t less than that.”
Once the bus stopped moving, Berry and a man near her crawled out the window to safety. In the aftermath of the crash, people lay in the mud, screaming and crying.
Christopher Forrest, who was also on the bus, said he felt as though he was in the spin cycle in a dryer. Both Berry and Forrest said they felt incredibly blessed to have survived the bus accident.
Charter Company had Five Violations in Two Years
Records from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration show that Tao’s Travel has been in operation since 2013 and had four buses and eight drivers in 2018. In that year, the company’s vehicles traveled approximately 900,000 miles. Although Tao’s Travel had no crashes reported in the last two years, it did have five violations, including speeding and defective emergency windows.
Officials from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash. One of the factors they will explore is if weather played a role in the fatal accident. The fog was so thick that rescuers could not use a helicopter to transport victims to local hospitals.
Residents Think Confusing Road Sign Contributed to Crash
People who live and work near the crash scene speculated that a confusing road sign might have contributed the Virginia charter bus crash. Local gas station attendant Doug Eubanks said many travelers along that stretch of road often confuse the Route 301 exit and the Interstate 295 exit.
Officials noted the area where the crash occurred is a “problem area” and they would investigate whether that played a role in causing the bus to flip.
Lawsuit Filed Following Bus Crash
One of the bush crash survivors filed a lawsuit alleging Tao’s Travel operated the bus negligently and recklessly, and the company’s hiring and training were also negligent. 40-year-old Shivon Dollar-Moore filed the $10.4 million lawsuit after he suffered a back injury that required surgery.