Sixteen people sustained non-life-threatening injuries yesterday in a tour bus accident on Alishan in Chiayi County, less than a day after a tour bus accident in Jianshi (尖石) Township, Hsinchu County, killed 13 people from New Taipei City (新北市) and injured 10 others.
The Chiayi County Fire Department said the accident on Alishan occurred at 9:57am near the 39.5km marker on the Alishan Highway (Highway No. 18).
A tour bus carrying 14 Malaysian and Singaporean tourists and Taiwanese tour guide Chen Mu-sung (陳木松) overturned after hitting the mountainside on the opposite side of the road.
All the tourists and Chen were injured and were quickly sent to nearby hospitals.
Bus Driver Wang Chi-chieh (王志傑) emerged unscathed from the accident and did not go to hospital.
Wang, 37, told TV news reporters that he slammed on the brakes as soon as he saw a car coming out from the side of the road only to discover that the brakes were not working.
After learning what happened at Hsinchu County on Sunday afternoon, Wang said he decided to slow down by first pulling the hand brake.
“I had to reduce the speed further by having the bus slightly hit something, otherwise the bus would fall into the valley,” Wang said.
The tourists came from three families.
They said that they remembered being told to hold onto something because the brakes were not working.
They also thanked local Taiwanese who stopped to help with rescue efforts and even to take some of the injured tourists to the hospitals.
According to the Tourism Bureau, the tour was arranged by Greater Kaohsiung-based Lu An Travel Services and was scheduled to end tomorrow.
Chen was a certified tour guide, and the tourists in the group were all insured, the bureau added.
Records from the Directorate-General of Highways (DGH) showed that the bus license plate was issued in September 2001.
The bus in the accident in Hsinchu County was also issued its license plate in the same year.
The records showed that both vehicles had just completed their required inspections in September and their next inspections had been scheduled for next month.
Meanwhile, a series of recent traffic accidents involving tour buses became the focus at the question and answer session of the legislature’s Transportation Committee meeting yesterday, when the lawmakers were scheduled to review the Tourism Development Fund (觀光發展基金).
A video clip of the bus accident in Hsinchu captured on the dashboard camera of a van showed that the bus had already driven past the curve on the highway. It should have continued moving forward, but it started to slide backward and fell into the valley.
Facing questions from lawmakers, Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) promised to submit a report on the accident in Hsinchu within two weeks.
Mao added that there are only regulations on large or medium-sized bus’ access on the provincial highways, which are maintained by the DGH.
The accident in Hsinchu occurred on a county road, which was maintained by Hsinchu County Government.
However, Mao said that the ministry would assist local governments in conducting a comprehensive inspection of the roads through the mountains under their administrations.
DGH also said that it inspected the accident site in Hsinchu and found that it was not an uphill section of the road, adding that it needed to ascertain why the bus lost power and if the bus driver had taken the necessary procedures to stop the bus from moving backward.
The agency said that the bus was manufactured by Isuzu Motors.
Another bus of the same model slid backward and fell off a roadside slope in Taroko Gorge earlier this year, injuring 15 people aboard.
The DGH said that it would ask Isuzu’s agents in Taiwan to recall vehicles of the same model for inspection.