Wed, Oct 04, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Bus driver charged with negligent manslaughter

DIVERSION:Bus driver Wu Hsieh-sung said that he was distracted because he was trying to find wet wipes just before the accident that killed six people and hurt 11

By Tsai Ching-hua and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Ciaotou District Prosecutors Office spokesman Hsu Hung-ju, speaking at a news conference in Kaohsiung yesterday, points at video surveillance stills showing Aloha Bus Co driver Wu Hsieh-sung’s behavior just before his bus crashed killing six people on Sept. 11.

Photo: CNA

Prosecutors yesterday indicted Aloha Bus Co driver Wu Hsieh-sung on a charge of negligent manslaughter following a deadly bus accident on Sept. 11.

Six people were killed and 11 injured when Wu crashed into the median on the Sun Yat-sen Freeway (Freeway No. 1) in Kaohsiung’s Gangshan District (岡山).

Wu said he was attempting to evade a vehicle in front of him at the time of the accident.

Chaotou District Chief Prosecutor Hsu Hung-ju (徐弘儒) said footage from the bus showed that Wu took his eyes off the road twice to look for something to the right of his seat before the crash.

Wu told investigators that he was stifled by the heat and was trying to find wet wipes to wipe his face, Hsu said, adding that reports that Wu was looking for his cellphone were incorrect.

The bus’ internal recorder showed that Wu was not driving over the speed limit, Hsu said, adding that the bus was traveling at 73kph at the moment of impact.

The bus’ speed did not exceed 105kph in the 13 minutes prior to the accident, he added.

The speed limit for that section of the freeway is 110kph, Hsu said.

Wu was not wearing a seat belt and the swerve he made to avoid hitting the vehicle in front threw him off his seat, saving his life, Hsu added.

The work schedule at Aloha Bus showed that Wu was not overworked and the bus company had followed labor laws, he said.

Wu did not work overtime in the seven-day period prior to the accident and he had the mandated 10 hours of rest before driving as required by law, Hsu said.

Smartphone location data showed that Wu’s phone was near his residence in Kaohsiung’s Fongshan District (鳳山) during his rest period, confirming company records, Hsu said.

There is no evidence that the vehicle in front of the bus was responsible for the crash in any way, Hsu said, adding that investigators reviewed surveillance footage from a freeway camera and interviewed the driver of the vehicle.

Ten of the 11 people injured in the accident have yet to press charges against Wu for negligence causing bodily harm, Hsu said.

Wu is recuperating from his injuries and his commercial license has been revoked, Aloha Bus said, adding that it would take full responsibility for civil lawsuits, but not for the criminal charges.

Aloha Bus spokesman Juan Fu-sheng (阮福生) said the company’s vehicles have anti-sleep alarms, but they were undergoing calibration and were inactive at the time of the accident.

The device tracks the driver’s eye movements and sounds an alarm if the driver’s attention wavers, and keeps a log of the alarms for the company’s reference, Juan said.

The devices are now operational and the company will take disciplinary action against offending drivers, including firing them, Juan said, adding that all drivers would be retrained.

The government cannot supervise individual commercial drivers and to a large extent depends on bus operators to regulate their drivers, Ministry of Transportation and Communications Department of Railways and Highways official Hu Ti-chi (胡迪琦) said.

The government is providing subsidies to bus companies for the installation of anti-sleep alarms, Hu added.

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