The family members of 23 Chinese nationals who died in a tour bus fire on July 19 have reached an agreement on compensation with the insurance company covering the bus company, the Tourism Bureau said yesterday.
Bureau Deputy Director-General Chang Hsi-tsung (張錫聰) said family members of 23 of the 24 Chinese who died in the blaze have signed settlement papers.
They agreed to compensation of NT$6.64 million (US$206,815) per victim, including NT$2 million per person in professional liability insurance, NT$2 million per person in compulsory tour bus insurance and another NT$2 million in passenger liability insurance.
The family of the 24th victim said it has commissioned a lawyer to take care of the matter and will not sign the papers before it returns home.
“The wishes of the family will be respected,” Chang said, adding that the insurance company would hold discussions on outstanding issues with their lawyer.
Chang said the remains of 23 Chinese victims were cremated on Monday and yesterday, with the last victim to be cremated today.
The Ministry of Transportation and Communications said that after one family left Taiwan on Monday, the second 65-member group consisting of family members of the victims and Chinese officials left Taiwan for Dalian, China, yesterday afternoon.
The remaining family members and two Chinese officials who have stayed behind are to leave today, it added.
If other family members want to extend their stay in Taiwan, the National Immigration Agency (NIA) would provide them the necessary assistance, the ministry said.
The families of the Chinese victims arrived last week on a seven-day permit.
The bus carrying the Chinese tourists from Liaoning Province began to belch smoke on National Freeway No. 2 while on its way to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport on the final day of the tour group’s eight-day tour of the nation.
Fire later engulfed the entire bus and none of the 26 people aboard, including the Taiwanese driver and a Taiwanese guide, were able to escape.
Prosecutors are still investigating the cause of the fire, including the possibility that it was started by an electrical short circuit, along with the driver’s background and speculation that there were five containers of gasoline on the bus that fueled the fire.
Li Jiangiang (厲建良), husband of Chinese victim Lin Caizhu (林彩珠), asked why only the insurance company and not the bus company was involved in paying compensation.
Li said he felt the family members had been “coerced” into signing the settlement, because they were only give a seven-day visa for Taiwan and were not informed by the NIA about possible extensions.
Li said he had intended to demand an improved compensation offer, but regardless of the outcome, it would not bring back the life of his loved one.
The grieving family members have no more strength and have decided to claim the compensation offered and return later for legal action after prosecutors complete their investigation, Li said.
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