Pahang coach crash: Bus 'was going very fast in heavy rain', says Singaporean survivor

The upper deck of the double-decker coach bus was flattened in the accident. -- PHOTO: CHINA PRESS
The upper deck of the double-decker coach bus was flattened in the accident. -- PHOTO: CHINA PRESS

S'porean survivor recounts events leading to crash in Pahang

A Singaporean tourist who survived Sunday's Malaysian coach horror told The Straits Times she came from the "luckiest family" yesterday.

Recounting her ordeal, Ms Lam Yee Ling, 21, also claimed that the driver had been going "very fast" in heavy rain before plunging 15m off the Segamat-Kuantan highway into a ravine next to an oil palm plantation in Pahang state.

The upper deck was flattened in the accident, which killed British engineer Harry Christopher Woolhouse, 32. Three Chinese nationals remain hospitalised.

Ms Lam, who was on her way back from Pulau Redang with her parents and brother, had been asleep just before the crash, five hours into the nine-hour journey.

"It was raining quite heavily and the driver was driving very fast," said Ms Lam, who is waiting to enrol at university.

"There was a sudden jerk and then we started flipping over. I don't know if the driver fell asleep or he simply lost control."

Her father fractured his left arm in the 4.40pm crash, while her mother injured her back. Ms Lam and her younger brother escaped with cuts and bruises.

"I'm very thankful I can stand here and talk to you like this," she cried. "Some of the victims had blood all over their faces."

Injured passengers were sent to nearby hospitals in Pekan, Kuantan and Muadzam Shah.

The family paid almost $2,600 for their holiday with Sany Travel & Tour, which Ms Lam accused of having no protocol in place to deal with accidents.

She also claimed that the agency could not state upfront which company was insuring the trip and that nobody contacted her or her family for almost six hours after the crash.

"I didn't get any help, I had to help myself," said Ms Lam, whose boyfriend drove her and her family back to Singapore on Sunday night.

"After it all happened I had to call the agency, but nobody came to help us at all. Instead, they told us to keep calm, get coffee and have a good meal."

Malaysian police are investigating the driver for causing death by reckless or dangerous driving.

There were 38 tourists on board the bus, including 20 Singaporeans and tourists from India, China, Britain and the United States.

Most of the foreigners are believed to be working in Singapore.

Two drivers and a tour guide - all Malaysians - were also on board and suffered injuries.

Last night 22 passengers returned to Singapore by private bus. Another eight, including one Briton, one French and one American, stayed in Malaysia because they "did not wish to come back", said Sany Travel's director, Mr Michael Sim, 69.

He said it was the company's first brush with an accident since it was set up in 1986, adding that the Lam family were among the least injured of the passengers.

He said: "We are not fire-fighting experts. It was the first time I've encountered something like this. The authorities had to explain many things to me.

"Everybody was putting their hearts together to try to save lives, try to help the injured. There are priorities."

It was the third coach crash in Pahang in eight days. Three people died and 10 were injured when a double-decker crashed into an electrical pole on April 12. There were also three serious injuries when an express bus crashed into a road divider last Saturday.

Malaysian Deputy Transport Minister Ab Aziz Kaprawi said inspections of express and tourist buses will be stepped up.

Mr Woolhouse had been due to return home to visit, his father told Britain's Telegraph. He was working in Singapore for engineering consultancy firm Atkins.

"He was doing so well in his life and we can't understand why this had to happen to him," said Mr Christopher Woolhouse, 67. "He's only 32 but he packed so many things into his time."

The chief executive officer of Atkins' energy division, Dr Martin Grant, told The Straits Times that the company is "deeply upset" by the death of Mr Woolhouse.

"He was a highly popular colleague and an extremely capable young engineer who had a very promising career ahead of him," said Dr Grant. "He will be very much missed by us all."

Sany Travel was still receiving inquiries about trips to Redang when The Straits Times visited its Orchard Road office yesterday.

The Consumers Association of Singapore said it has not received any complaints about Sany in the last three years.

Ms Lam said she is considering filing claims against the company at the Small Claims Tribunal.

Additional reporting by Lim Yan Liang