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BY PORTSIA SMITH
A judge on Tuesday dismissed all charges filed against a Sky Express bus dispatcher in a crash on Interstate 95 that killed four passengers.
Circuit Judge J. Howe Brown dismissed four counts of involuntary manslaughter against Zhao Jian Chen, 41, of Greensboro, N.C., at the request of Caroline County Commonwealth's Attorney Tony Spencer.
Chen was accused of ordering bus driver Kin Yiu Cheung, 38, to drive the Sky Express bus on May 31, 2011, from North Carolina to New York, even though Cheung told him he was too tired. Cheung fell asleep and the bus overturned near the Carmel Church exit.
Due to a gag order, Spencer is unable to discuss the case. But defense attorney Ted Bruns called the accusations Cheung made against his client "hogwash."
Bruns said the prosecution's case against Chen was based on Cheung's claim that Chen told him that he had to drive or risk losing his job.
"We provided Mr. Spencer with some evidence that called into question the truthfulness of what Mr. Cheung had claimed," he said without going into specifics. "It will be pretty clear when [Cheung] is tried next week.
Chen was subpoenaed Tuesday by the Virginia State Police to testify in Cheung's trial, which is scheduled to begin Nov. 8.
Bruns said Chen spent three month in jail based on a lie that Cheung told.
"Crashing the bus is one thing, but throwing Mr. Chen under the bus is another," Bruns said.
"Sometimes the cover-up is worse than the crime," he added.
Bruns said Chen, a native of China, is the country legally and has a green card. He said he is concerned that the charges could impact Chen's effort to become a U.S. citizen.
"I'm not sure what impact it will have on his immigration status," he said.
On the morning of May 31, 2011, Cheung admitted to police that he fell asleep while driving Sky Express bus No. 386 north on I-95. The bus ran off the right side of the highway, hit an embankment and overturned, landing on its roof.
Of the 58 passengers aboard the bus, 53 were taken to 11 different 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.
State police spokeswoman Corrine Geller said fatigue was a factor in the crash and speed is what made the bus flip. The speed limit in the crash area is 70 mph.
If found guilty of all four counts of involuntary manslaughter, Cheung could face up to 40 years in prison.
Portsia Smith: 540/374-5419