Wed, Oct 04, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Crash driver's actions queried

TOUR TRAGEDY A bus which crashed on Monday killing six people was driving too fast along a stretch of road on which tour buses are banned

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Prosecutor Shih Kwong-che walks past the bus which plunged into a valley in Hsinyi, Nantou County, on Monday. The crash left six people dead and 15 injured.

PHOTO: AFP

Transportation officials and travel service providers were busy handling the aftermath of the bus accident on Monday night which left five Chinese tourists and their Taiwanese tour guide dead and another 15 people including the driver injured.

Minister of Transportation and Communications Tsai Duei (蔡堆) said yesterday that the first priority was to make provisions for the deceased and injured. He said no family members had requested charter flights for urgent medical cases at this time.

Wu Chao-yen (吳朝彥), director of the hotel, travel and training division under the tourism bureau, said the initial investigation showed that the accident was preceded by a fight between the tour guide and a tourist.

Wu said a tourist complained to the tour guide, identified as Chen Yun-hsuen (陳澐璇) that she had arranged too many shopping stops and accused her of taking paybacks from shop owners. The tourist had also complained about the food provided.

A verbal dispute eventually turned into a fight, Wu said, and the party stopped at a police station to report the incident.

The procedure delayed the entire tour schedule by three hours, Wu said, which forced the driver to drive the tour bus in the dark.

According to a report delivered by the Directorate General of Highways, the 39 year-old bus driver, Dai Chien-yuan (戴見淵), was alleged to have been driving at a speed of 104kph on a section of road from which large tour buses were banned. The speed limit for the section is 50kph.

The report also found that Dai had less than three years of driving experience, and was thus driving the vehicle illegally.

Tire tracks detected at the scene of the accident have been identified as being the result of driving at high speed and were not caused by braking.

No brake problems or abnormalities with the vehicle's wheels have been detected.

The accident occurred in Nantou County's Hsinyi Township on provincial highway 21.

Tseng Sheng-hai (曾盛海), chairman of the Travel Agents Association of Taiwan, said that each passenger had been fully insured, both by the travel agency and the tour bus company.

The combined compensation for the deceased from both organizations is NT$3.5 million (US$106,000) per person and NT$230,000 per person for the injured.

Hsu Meng-yu (徐夢育), director of the Taipei Tour Bus Association, said it would not avoid its share of responsibility for the tragedy.

On top of the compensation from the travel agency and the tour bus company, Hsu said it would provide an additional NT$2 million for the deceased and NT$250,000 for the injured.

There are currently, 173 Chinese tour groups in Taiwan, comprising 2,000 tourists.

The tourism bureau emphasized yesterday that the seven-day tour package arranged by the travel agency was by no means a "low-price tour."

The cost of each day was US$55 per person, it said, and tourists stayed in at least three-star hotels every night.

Meanwhile, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Vice Chairman Liu Te-shun (劉德勳) yesterday said the council would help the injured to obtain the best medical treatment possible and assist the families of the deceased in dealing with the remains of their loved ones -- the MAC will respect their wishes regarding cremation.

Liu said the accident highlighted the importance of building a smooth channel of dealing with such an emergency as the cross-strait tourism will open up at the end of the year.

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