PRINCE GEORGE — The driver of a discount-fare bus that crashed last Tuesday off an Interstate 95 exit ramp in Prince George County was traveling about 70 mph when he “turned suddenly” and tried to take the ramp at Exit 45, he told the Virginia State Police.
The bus driver, Yui Man Chow, 40, of Staten Island, N.Y., made the statement to trooper R. Borshch, according to an affidavit for a search warrant. The trooper does not say in the affidavit whether Chow veered onto the exit ramp because he mistakenly believed it was an on-ramp for Interstate 295.
A state police spokeswoman said last week that Chow, who appeared in court Monday, may have been intending to take the exit for I-295 just before he crashed. The exit for I-295 is about 1 mile north from where the bus crashed. The police have said the ramp at Exit 45 is a problem area, and it already was under scrutiny by highway safety officials.
The ramp’s posted speed is 25 mph, and the affidavit said heavy fog severely limited visibility on the morning of the crash.
Last Tuesday’s wreck, which killed two passengers and injured dozens of others, was the ninth crash at the exit ramp since the start of 2014. Officials with the Virginia Department of Transportation are investigating whether some of the wrecks are due to drivers on northbound I-95 being confused by highway signs and thinking that Exit 45 is actually a ramp onto I-295.
Chow’s remarks to the trooper are contained in an affidavit for a warrant to search the contents of Chow’s cellphone and corresponding records from his service provider.
Investigators are looking for data that would shed light on Chow’s actions leading up to the crash, such as fatigue or distracted driving, in the form of text messaging, calling activity, driving activity and periods of sleep, the affidavit says.
After the crash, an investigator went to Davis Travel Center on I-95 in Sussex County and observed surveillance camera footage that showed Chow purchasing a charger for his Apple iPhone about 20 minutes before the 5:22 a.m. crash, the affidavit says.
Subsequent to the search warrant, investigators obtained all of Chow’s cellphone data including text messages, photos, documents and files, and all estimated or known locations of where he was or traveled, the warrant says.
Investigators served a second search warrant on the Tao’s Travel Inc. bus that crashed with 57 people aboard, seeking all electronics that contain vehicle operational information, such as the vehicle’s event data recorder, and any other transponders or devices that collect and store data, according to the affidavit. Among other things, the data could provide the geographical and spatial location of the bus, along with its travel speed and travel time.
Chow, who has been charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter, made his first appearance in a Prince George courtroom Monday after he was released by a magistrate last Tuesday night on a $14,000 secured bond.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Timothy Dustin on Monday told a judge that prosecutors are seeking to revoke Chow’s bond and have him remanded to jail.
The judge set an April 1 hearing for the court to hear prosecution arguments as to why Chow’s bond should be revoked. Until then, Chow will remain free on bond but must remain in Virginia under the bond’s conditions.
Richmond attorney Adam Jurach told the court that he was representing Chow on behalf of Chow’s retained attorney, David Bahuriak of Philadelphia, who could not attend Monday’s hearing. Jurach declined comment on the case after the hearing.
Jurach told the court that Chow’s command of the English language is about 70 percent, but to ensure he understood Monday’s court proceedings, the defendant’s brother served as his interpreter.
The judge on Monday set a preliminary hearing on Chow’s charges for June 17 in Prince George General District Court.