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3 die, but hero saves dozens in bus crash

IT was a scene straight out of an action movie - but in this case the consequences were tragically real.

A bus slams into an oncoming taxi, the driver is catapulted through the windshield and - for a harrowing 900 meters - dozens of commuters scream in terror as the out-of-control bus clips eight more vehicles before one brave passenger is able to pull the hand brake and end the nightmare.

The accident, which occurred on Sunday night on Shanghai's Yangpu Bridge, left three people dead and 27 injured. But it could have been much worse. During their wild ride, passengers said they feared the careening bus might jump the guardrail and plunge off the bridge ramp.

Last night, investigators were still trying to determine what caused the fatal chain of events.

Meanwhile, two of the injured were in critical but stable condition at city hospitals. The others were released after treatment.

The dead were the bus driver, a passenger who was sitting behind him and a taxi driver. Their names were not released.

Police said the accident happened at around 9:30pm as a Bridge Route No. 3 bus was traveling across the Yangpu span from Puxi to Pudong. The bus first struck the rear of a tractor-trailer and then veered into the oncoming lane, where it hit a taxi head-on. It then zigzagged wildly, slamming into the other vehicles before it was brought to a stop.

"The bus wasn't going very fast when it hit the tractor-trailer," Wu Xuefen, a 59-year-old woman who was sitting near the front of the bus, said from her bed yesterday in the intensive care unit at Gongli Hospital, where she was being treated for head injuries.

"The driver had obviously tried to brake - but he disappeared from view. I saw him fly out the window when we collided with the taxi in the opposite lane," she said.

"Before we could fully comprehend what had just taken place, our bus was running out of control without a driver," Wu said.

She said the passengers began screaming and someone shouted, "Can anyone drive?"

"Then a man dashed to the front and pulled the hand brake," Wu said. "At the same time, he also told us to crouch down and stay calm."

The bus finally stopped near the bridge's guardrail. The hero left the scene without being identified.

"We were scared that it might crash through the guardrail," said Wu Huacai, a slightly injured passenger, who believes the bus brakes may have failed.

"We were going faster and faster before the crash," he said.

An elderly woman said the first collision knocked out her dentures. She replaced them but lost them again during a subsequent impact.

"I stopped trying to find them at that point and just grabbed the hand bar and closed my eyes - I thought we were dead," said the woman, who suffered a broken ankle and had glass particles embedded in the skin of her neck.

The transit bus operator, Bashi Yiqi Co, would not comment on the accident. The bus was not equipped with a seat belt for the driver, according to police.

The local transport watchdog said yesterday that it will order a citywide safety inspection of all transit buses as a result of the crash.


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