Liability in Chinese Bus Accident Unclear

(Photo via World Journal)

A long-distance bus registered in New York with “Tao’s Travel Inc” printed on the vehicle overturned near Kingwood, Virginia, on March 19 when it was on the way to New York from North Carolina. Insiders of the long-distance bus industry said it will be hard to establish liability because the bus, the ticketing and the route are likely to be operated by different companies, and the process of finding out who should be responsible for the accident will be complicated.

Police arrested the Chinese driver of the bus right after the accident, and he was detained as of the night on March 19. “Tao’s Travel Inc,” as marked on the bus, has a registered address at 225 Bay 40th Street, Brooklyn, which is a private home.

People who have the information said the company is owned by an immigrant from Fuzhou whose last name is Chen. The bus departed from Orlando, Florida, with New York as the destination. The bus stopped by Rocky Mount in North Carolina at 3 a.m., where a different driver took over. The driver lives in North Carolina or Florida most of the time. The bus crashed right after he drove it onto the road after a gas refilling. Among the 57 passengers on the bus, a dozen or so were non-Chinese.

Mr. Chen, the owner of Tao’s Travel Inc, said the bus was a chartered one, the driver was an employee of the bus company, and he himself bears no responsibility. But insiders of the bus industry said the business often works this way: the ticketing company charters a bus from the bus company to initiate a route. And the route is then divided into several segments and subcontracted to different drivers.

(Photo via World Journal)

“What often happens is that one route plus one bus would be registered as an individual company. And the registered legal representative of the company could just be a driver. But indeed many of these companies belong to the same owner,” an insider explains. “Only people of the company know how the profit is shared among them. Then there are still the ticket company and the charter company at the top. So there are likely to be several companies and legal representatives involved in the accident. It’s hard to say who eventually will be held accountable.”


Two passengers died in the accident. The World Journal published a profile of them on March 21, by reporters Lei Zhu and Yiyi Huang. Here is an excerpt:

Su Feng Xu, a 37-year-old immigrant from Fuzhou, was one of the two passengers who died in the accident. Xu’s wife Cai Yu, who lives in Lianjiang County, Fuzhou, China, told the World Journal in a phone interview on March 20 that she received a phone call at about 10 p.m. on March 19 from the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of Fuzhou City telling her the devastating news.

“My brain went numb. I couldn’t believe my ears,” said Yu. “I told our 11- and 12-year-old sons. They held each other and howled together. I haven’t told my parents-in-law yet. They are almost 80. I worry they cannot bear the loss.”

 Yu said she married Xu in 2006. Two years ago, Xu borrowed money to pay a human smuggler to come to the U.S. in order to make more money and offer the family a better life. The family still owes more than 100,000 RMB ($15,000).

Xu lived in Brooklyn most of the time, but sometimes he went to Florida to work. “He was a hardworking and good-natured person,” said Yu. “He never complained. When he called, he only told us good news. We were hoping he could get his green card and citizenship soon so that our family could reunite.”

The other passenger who died was Janetta Cumberbatch, an 81-year-old woman from Jamaica, Queens.

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  1. But insiders of the bus industry said the business often works this way: the ticketing company charters a bus from the bus company to initiate a route

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