At least 19 killed, 60 injured as bus topples over in Hong Kong; driver arrested

First responders work at the scene of the crash.
First responders work at the scene of the crash.PHOTOS: EPA-EFE
Rescuers work at the site of a crashed bus in Hong Kong, Feb 10, 2018.
Rescuers work at the site of a crashed bus in Hong Kong, Feb 10, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS
Dead bodies covered by blankets are lined up by first responders at the scene of the crash.
Dead bodies covered by blankets are lined up by first responders at the scene of the crash.PHOTOS: EPA-EFE
First responders work at the scene.
First responders work at the scene.PHOTOS: EPA-EFE

HONG KONG (AFP, REUTERS) – The driver of a double-decker bus that overturned in Hong Kong killing at least 19 people and injuring more than 60 was arrested on Saturday evening (Feb 10) for dangerous driving, police said.

Images from the scene showed rescuers trying to reach passengers trapped inside the bus, which lay on its side with part of its roof torn off near the town of Tai Po in the northern New Territories.

It appeared to have slid on its side and hit a lamppost which smashed into the upper decks of the vehicle. The driver has been arrested on charges of causing death and grievous bodily harm by dangerous driving.

In an updated toll in the early hours of Sunday morning the city’s Hospital Authority said another victim had died, bringing the total to 19 fatalities.

But 10 of the injured were in critical condition, while another 20 were seriously wounded, officials said.

Most of the dead and injured were on the upper deck of the bus, Chan Hing-yu of the fire department told reporters.

The driver was suspected of being over the speed limit as he went down a slope and lost control of the vehicle, senior traffic superintendent Lee Chi-wai told reporters.

He was not in need of any medical treatment after the crash and was be sober, he added.

'REALLY CHAOTIC'

Speaking to local media, passengers said the bus was going too fast before the crash.

“It was much faster than I normally felt in a bus,” one injured passenger told the South China Morning Post’s online edition.

“And then it was like the tyre slipped, and the bus turned. It was really chaotic in the bus. People fell on one another and got tossed from side to side,” he said.

Before the crash, passengers had complained to the driver who was reportedly 10 minutes late and he then started speeding up, the Apple Daily reported, quoting injured passengers at the scene.

One injured passenger told the Oriental Daily said it was like the driver was “intentionally using the bus to throw a tantrum.”

Lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting of the Democratic Party urged the government to rethink the design of double-decker buses saying the upper decks had been “repeatedly torn off in accidents, posing a serious threat to passengers on the upper level”.

He also called the government to address the issue of many drivers working overly long hours.

An executive surnamed So, with The Kowloon Motor Bus Co that operated the bus, said HK$80,000 (S$13,000) in financial assistance would be paid to the families of each victim. The company said it would also set up an investigation team to probe the cause of the crash. 

City leader Carrie Lam, who visited survivors at the Prince of Wales Hospital late on Saturday, expressed “deep sorrow” and pledged there would be an independent investigation.

DEADLY DOUBLE-DECKER ACCIDENTS

The southern Chinese city promotes its public transport system as one of the best infrastructures in the world but fatal accidents do occasionally happen.

Hong Kong’s worst road traffic accident occurred in 2003 when a double-decker bus collided with a truck and plunged from a bridge, killing 21 people.

In 2008, 18 people were killed in another bus crash.

Fourteen people were injured last April when a double-decker tram tipped over, with a 23-year-old driver later arrested for dangerous driving causing harm to others.

The safety of Hong Kong’s notoriously crowded waterways has also remained under scrutiny since 39 people were killed when a high-speed ferry and a pleasure boat crashed in 2012.