Speeding bus flips over in snow storm on I-95

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- It was a terrifying ride aboard a Princess Tours Inc. bus as it crashed after speeding through the morning snow storm on I-95 southbound in Stafford, Virginia. Passengers say the bus was speeding and started fish-tailing before it hit the guardrail and flipped over on its side.

"I was scared, everyone was scared and people were screaming. "I said, 'Jesus'!" Larette Campbell said. She and her son Gary Bernard, both from New York, were on their way to see her daughter in Atlanta. They were among 58 passengers traveling from New York to Georgia. Bernard said the ride cost only $60 each.

"I woke up to the bus swaying and someone yelled, 'Are we going to crash'? And when I woke up again, the bus was on its side and people were on top of me," said Chevyonne Dillon, of New York.

Sheldon Thaon was traveling home to Georgia. "It was horrible. The bus flipped over. The bus was going way too fast, it hit the barrier and flipped on its side. I was on the bottom and everybody was sitting on top of me."

Thaon was lucky to have only bruised ribs and a cut. He was worried about his wife who had back pain and had to be taken out of the bus in stretcher. Thaon said he lost his shoes and had to stand in the snow barefoot for close to an hour.

Virginia State Police charged the driver, Qilong Xiao,50, with reckless driving. He's being held in the Rappahannock Regional Jail. Trooper F.L. Tyler said speed was a factor in the crash. "He was going too fast for the road conditions," he said.

All of the passengers, whether they were injured or not, were taken to local hospitals. The most seriously injured were taken to Mary Washington Hospital. Four passengers were admitted there and another was transported to VCU Medical Center, according to hospital officials.

The driver may have been speeding for miles. Rafael Gonzalez says he was driving to Mary Washington Hospital for a family emergency when the bus passed him on I-95.

Gonzalez says he was going only 45 miles per hour, which was plenty fast in a snow storm. The bus, he said, passed him doing 70. And then, Gonzalez said he was stunned to see the bus fish tail into a 180 and then speed off again. When he reached the turned over bus, he thought nobody survived. Amazingly, they all did.

Larette Campbell said, "God carried us through."

The bus was operated by Princess Tours out of Indianapolis. State police sent a trooper to assist with translation because Xiao, the Chinese driver, spoke very little English.

Another driver with the company was previously cited for not being able to read right or understand English. The Federal motor vehicle safety administration requires command of English for interstate transport.

Written by Peggy Fox


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