Tue, Sep 06, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Two killed as Australian tour bus plunges off road

STAFF WRITER , WITH AGENCIES, SYDNEY

Two Taiwanese nationals were killed and 22 injured in Australia yesterday when a bus full of Taiwanese tourists on their way to visit a temple ran off a road and rolled 10m down an embankment, police said.

The 24-seater bus was taking the group to the Nan Tien Temple near the coastal city of Wollongong, south of Sydney, when the accident happened, police said.

"As a result of the crash, a man and woman died at the scene," police said in a statement, adding that another seven people are in critical condition and have been airlifted to hospital.

The tour group was organized by Taipei's Cola Tours.

As of press time, the names of the two victims had not yet been released.

Representatives from the travel agency yesterday said they had contacted the families of all tour members and arranged for them to fly to Australia today to take care of their loved ones.

The Taiwanese representative office in Sydney yesterday said 22 of the 24 passengers on board the bus held Taiwanese passports.

An official from the representative office told the AAP news agency that they were still trying to confirm details about the whereabouts of those on board. The official said one of the critically injured was in Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney.

"But the others we don't know about; we don't know where they are," he said.

Thirteen other tourists, plus the bus driver and the tour guide, sustained minor injuries.

The critically injured were airlifted to Sydney's Royal North Shore, St. George and Liverpool hospitals. The bus driver and tour guide were taken by ambulance to Wollongong hospital.

"The 22 passengers on board the bus were Taiwanese and part of an organized tour traveling from Canberra to the Nan Tien Temple in Berkeley, near Wollongong," police said.

The accident occurred on a narrow road near the town of Jamberoo 35km outside Wollongong. Television footage showed the vehicle lying on its roof in a paddock.

"The bus rolled down an embankment. At this stage we have two people deceased," a spokeswoman for the New South Wales Ambulance Service told Agence France Presse (AFP).

Locals said the Jamberoo Mountain Road, where the accident happened, was unsuitable for heavy vehicles.

"It's a reasonable road; I travel it on a regular basis," said Jim Eddy, who runs the Jamberoo Recreation Park.

"But it's a bit tight for a bus or a truck -- I didn't even know they used the road for that purpose."

Police said the road has been blocked by emergency services personnel and would remain closed while inquiries were carried out at the scene.

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