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April 24, 2012

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Bus speed probed in fatal crash

A Shanghai tour bus that collided head-on with a truck and killed 14 people and injured 20 others on Sunday had been traveling at more than 100 kilometers per hour before the accident, police have found.

Moreover, some passengers said yesterday that most people on the bus, including the driver, failed to fasten their seatbelts, which allowed many of them to be thrown out of the bus and likely added to the death toll.

The bus, with 33 people onboard including a guide and the driver, ran at 108 kph on the Yanjiang Expressway in neighboring Jiangsu Province about 30 minutes before the accident, the bus's GPS revealed. Parts of the highway have a speed limit of 80 kph, but it wasn't clear whether that included the area where the bus hit 108 kph.

Police were still examining the bus to ascertain the cause of the accident, such as a burst tire or speeding, a process that could take several days, the Jiangsu traffic police told Shanghai Daily yesterday.

The GPS showed the bus was running at 80 to 90 kph on average but suddenly accelerated in what the police said was probably the driver overtaking another vehicle, when it hit 108 kph.

The bus was on its way to Changshu for a peony flower show when it suddenly crashed through the guardrail into the opposite lanes of the expressway about 9:30am and collided with the truck.

Six passengers and the truck driver were killed instantly while seven other passengers died in the hospital. The bus driver, from Shandong Province, suffered only slight injuries.

Driver talked out of suicide

The driver, surnamed Wang, 38, had worked for car-rental company for only two months, said Zhao Yuli, an official with the Shanghai Yiliu Vehicle Renting Service Co in Pudong's Nanhui area, who rented the bus to the travel agency that organized the tour.

Zhao said Wang had necessary qualifications and the bus that was put into use in December 2010 had been inspected before leaving.

Wang climbed onto an 11th-floor balcony in the Changshu hospital to commit suicide on Sunday night but was persuaded down by doctors.

Police found that the bus failed to pass its annual inspection last month. But Zhao said it failed only because the driver forgot to bring the insurance certificate - not because of any problems.

Some injured passengers said each seat of the bus had a safety belt, but nobody reminded them to fasten it. Witnesses had said at least 10 passengers were thrown out of the bus windows in the crash, while many suffered broken ribs and legs as the bus turned over.

Shanghai's traffic authority yesterday launched an overhaul among long-distance buses, public buses and Metro trains. The authority also inspected all the buses at the Yiliu Vehicle Renting Service Co.

The toll in Sunday's crash increased as another injured person died yesterday, raising the number of deaths to 14.

Three seriously wounded tourists were transferred yesterday to the Shanghai No. 6 People's Hospital, and still another 18 injured were staying in hospitals in Changshu. None of the remaining injured is considered at risk of dying, said the Shanghai Public Health Bureau.

The hospital said one of the injured suffered a broken neck while the other had injured vertebrae.

The Shanghai Tourism Administration said the members of the tour were gathered by five travel service websites. The websites entrusted the tourists to the Shanghai Xiangda Travel Service Co Ltd, which organized the trip.

All the websites have bought liability insurance for them while most of the tourists have also bought accident insurance.


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