Hong Kong police probe deadly bus accident that killed at least 19

Firefighters (centre) sorting through crash debris after a deadly bus accident in Hong Kong on Feb 10, 2018. Nineteen people were killed and 65 people were injured, some critically, according to local police. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (AFP) - Hong Kong police said on Sunday (Feb 11) they were investigating a deadly bus accident that left 19 people dead and scores more injured, with the bus driver arrested for dangerous driving.

The double-decker bus overturned on Saturday evening near the town of Tai Po in the northern New Territories, flipping onto its side and appearing to smash into a lamppost.

Nineteen people were killed and 65 people were injured, some critically, according to local police.

"The 30-year old male bus driver was arrested for dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm. He is still being detained for further enquiries," police said in a statement early Sunday.

The bus was travelling from Sha Tin racecourse towards Tai Po and the driver reportedly lost control of the vehicle as he was pulling into a turn near Tai Po Mei, causing the bus to flip over onto its side, reported local media.

Most of the passengers were horse racing fans, as the bus was travelling on a special route that runs only on horse racing days, reported Xinhua news agency.

Most of the injured and some of the dead 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 found to be sober, he added.

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.

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One injured passenger told the Oriental Daily 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 on the government to address the issue of many drivers working overly long hours.

City leader Carrie Lam, who visited survivors at the Prince of Wales Hospital late on Saturday, expressed "deep sorrow" and announced that the government would set up an independent committee, chaired by a judge, to investigate bus safety.

"The goal is to ensure a safe and reliable public transport system ... especially for bus services," Mrs Lam said.

The southern Chinese city promotes its public transport system as one of the best 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.

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