CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a cease and desist order Friday, demanding that the now-shutdown Sky Express, Inc. bus company abandon any attempt to operate under a different name.
The DOT says the company it shut down after Tuesday's deadly wreck on I-95 is attempting to sell tickets under names like 108 Tours and 108 Bus. It also said the Charlotte-based company may be repainting or planning to repaint its buses.
NewsChannel 36 visited Sky Express's Independence Boulevard depot. The building is closed, and three buses were parked and still labeled with the Sky Express name.
Four people were killed, and 53 injured, when Sky Express's driver fell asleep at the wheel in Caroline County, Virginia on Tuesday. That driver is now facing involuntary manslaughter charges. The company was already being watched by the DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) because of multiple violations involving driver fatigue.
The cease and desist is part of an expanding investigation into bus companies known as the Chinatown buses in New York City.
The FMCSA also released a subpoena Friday for Jimmy Chen, owner of websites www.gotobus.comand www.taketours.com. (The government also lists Chen as owner of www.2001bus.com, but Chen says he does not own that site.)All threewebsites sell tickets for the Chinatown buses. Before the wreck, www.gotobus.com sold tickets for Skybus Express.
The subpoena requests all documents related to 15 bus companies with names like Blue Sky Bus Tours, I-95 Coach, and 108 Tour.
If you use gotobus-dot-com, it's all the same, Rossy Sampson told NewsChannel 36. She was picking up a bus labeled Blue Sky Bus Tours in the parking lot of the Days Inn on West Sugar Creek Road Friday night. They are all linked together. There are some buses with no names on them.
A quick internet search reveals that www.gotobus.com identified the bus Sampson took as I-95 Coach. 108 Bus, the company with which DOT fears Sky Express might be operating, lists its email address as firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are relentlessly targeting unsafe and illegal bus companies, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, in anews release about the cease and desist order and subpoena. This action sends a strong message that the U.S. Department of Transportation will utilize every legal and enforcement tool available to shut down unsafe bus companies and protect passengers and motorists.
You can read Chen's statement on the subpoena at http://www.gotobus.com/aboutus/news/.