Thirteen people were confirmed dead, eight sustained injuries and two remained missing after a tour bus accident in Jianshih Township (尖石), Hsinchu County, yesterday afternoon.
The Tourism Bureau said the accident occurred on County Road No. 60 near the hard-to-reach Smangus Village (司馬庫斯) of the Atayal Aborigines.
A medium-sized tour bus carrying 22 residents of Taishan District (泰山) in New Taipei City (新北市) veered off the road and fell into a valley at about 3:05pm, the bureau said. The victims were alumni of Taishan Elementary School and were on a two-day trip for a class reunion. Most of the passengers were aged over 60, the bureau said.
Several of the injured passengers climbed up the steep slope and called the bureau for help. Atayal Aborigines from the Smangus tribe took part in the rescue and helped to carry the injured out of the ravine.
The bureau dispatched rescue and ambulance personnel and also sought additional support from the fire bureaus of Hsinchu City and Taoyuan County.
The Ministry of National Defense also sent a team of military personnel to the site to assist in the rescue mission.
The tour bus driver was among the survivors and was receiving treatment at hospital, the bureau said, adding that he was cooperating with an investigation.
The bureau said the tour was arranged by Banciao-based Huadu Travel Service (華督旅行社), adding that the members of the group, including the driver, were all insured.
The Directorate-General of Highways (DGH) has dispatched representatives to determine whether the driver had a valid license and whether the tour bus had been properly maintained — two problems that were identified as having led to a series of deadly tour bus accidents in recent years.
While the authorities have yet to determine the cause of the accident, it was suspected that the rainy weather and slippery road conditions may have led to the tragedy.
Later yesterday, the DGH said its preliminary findings showed that the driver, surnamed Tai (戴), had secured his driver’s license for large passenger buses in 2000, adding that he did not have any violations recorded in the vehicle registration system.
His license for medium-sized tour buses was issued in March 2001.
The bus had no recorded violations either and has been required to undergo inspection three times per year.
The next inspection was scheduled for next month.
The directorate said the road on which the accident occurred had been maintained by the county and medium-sized buses were not restricted from accessing it.
Additional reporting by CNA