The boom of a crane plunged 37 floors from a construction site in Taipei City’s Xinyi District (信義) yesterday afternoon, smashing the back end of a tour bus carrying 25 visitors from China, leaving two passengers dead, another in critical condition and two slightly injured.
The tour group from Guangdong Province was on their way to Taipei 101 when the boom fell and struck the bus in an alley between the Xinyi Eslite Bookstore and Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Department Store. The rear end of the bus was crushed by the impact.
Firefighters rushed to the scene of the accident and blocked off the alley to allow ambulances to take the injured tourists to nearby hospitals.
“One man was killed instantly, while another man died after being rushed to hospital for emergency treatment,” a Taipei City Government spokeswoman said.
The Tourism Bureau identified the two tourists who died in the accident as 46-year-old Li Fuqing (李福慶) and 57-year-old Wang Bingkun (王炳坤). Li was cut in half and killed instantly when the boom smashed through the back of the bus.
Three injured tourists were sent to Taipei Medical University Hospital and Taipei City Hospital’s Zhongxiao branch: 63-year-old Zhang Shiguang (張世洸), 53-year-old Wang Peiling (王佩玲) and 29-year-old Ye Zhitang (葉志棠). Li, Wang Bingkun and Wang Peiling all work for the same textile and clothing company. Wang Bingkun is a relative of Wang Peiling.
Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) rushed to the site yesterday and demanded that the construction company take full responsibility for the accident.
“We regret that such an unfortunate accident happened today. It is a major industrial accident, and the city’s Department of Labor will look into the responsibility of the construction company,” Hau said.
“We will do all we can to look after the injured and demand compensation for the victims from the building contractor,” he said.
The ongoing construction involved work on a multifunctional building comprising a bus transit center, a shopping square and a hotel. The construction work is scheduled to be completed next year.
Hau demanded all construction at the site be halted immediately and said the department would investigate whether the accident was caused by negligence.
After the Taipei District Prosecutor’s Office was notified by police at 3:20pm, it sent Taipei District Prosecutor Hsieh Chi-mong (謝奇孟) to the scene to examine the bodies. Prosecutors said they would determine if the act was an accident, in which case the construction workers could be charged with occupational negligence causing death.
A preliminary investigation found that a small crane was operating a mid-sized boom on the 37th floor of the construction site when the boom broke off and fell to the street below.
Chen Mei-hsiu (陳美秀), division chief of the Tourism Bureau, said the Chinese tour group consisted of 24 employees from different companies in Dongguan.
There were a total of 25 travelers, including a Chinese team leader. At the time of the accident, the bus was carrying 27 people, including a Taiwanese tour guide and driver.
Chen said the Chinese tour group arrived in Kaohsiung on Monday and was scheduled to leave today from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.
Based on the group’s itinerary, the Chinese tourists had visited Kenting, Alishan, Sun Moon Lake and other destinations in the past few days.
The Tourism Bureau said the group’s local agent was Taipei International Travel Co.
Each member of the tour group had been insured by the travel agency for up to NT$3 million (US$89,000) in case of death or accident.
They also have medical insurance coverage of up to NT$200,000.
Taipei International Travel has hired nurses to look after the injured travelers.
Travel Agent Association chairman Yao Ta-kuan (姚大光) said it had arranged for the members of the tour group who were not injured in the accident to rest at the Eslite Bookstore first before sending them to a hotel.
Three of these tourists said they felt unwell and were accompanied by the representative of Taipei International Travel to Tri-Service General Hospital for examination.
Yao said that the China Travel Service Gongbei Port Guangdong Co, which organized the group in China, would bring the families of those who died or were injured in the accident to Taiwan.
Straits Exchange Foundation spokesman Maa Shaw-chang (馬紹章) said the foundation would help in handling affairs, including facilitating entry permits for the families of the tour group.
The tour bus was owned by Tong Shun Co (統順通運), the Ministry of Transportation and Communications said.
The bus was past its inspection date, which was March 19.
The vehicle license, which has been renewed regularly, expires in 2011.
The driver, Wen Lien-tsai (溫蓮財), had a valid license for driving tour buses.
The tragedy yesterday marked the second accident in which Chinese tourists have died or were injured.
The first accident happened two years ago, when six Chinese tourists from Dalian in Liaoning Province died in a traffic accident in Nantou County.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHELLEY HUANG AND AGENCIES
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