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2 city travelers hurt as second sightseeing bus crashes in US

A US tour company associated with a bus accident that left four Shanghai travelers dead on Friday in Arizona has been linked to another motor coach crash on the East Coast that injured two members of a second group from the city on Monday.

The coincidence doesn't end there. The 16-member Shanghai tour group victimized in the latest crash had witnessed the Arizona wreck and stopped to render aid.

Monday's accident occurred around noon as the group's bus was on its way from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Washington, DC. The vehicle was unable to complete a left turn, and a truck crashed into its rear end, witnesses said.

The group leader Chen Jiaying who was sitting at the back of the bus, suffered a cut above her eye when the rear window burst.

Shanghai resident Lu Yiran, who witnessed the Arizona crash, said his wife Yu Meizhen was slightly hurt in the accident. "Her chest bumped against the seat in front of her," Lu said.

Their tour was organized by the Shanghai International Travel Service, while the one involved in the fatal accident in Arizona was run by Shanghai Donghu International Travel Service.

Both used US-based Galaxy Tour Inc to arrange transport and other logistics in America.

Galaxy sent another bus to pick up the tourists after the pileup in the east, and the sightseeing trip continued.

"All the tourists decided to continue their visits after the accident. The injured tourist was treated after supper," said Hou Cangzhou, an SITS official.

US police were still investigating the accident, the travel agency said.

Yesterday afternoon, 13 family members of some of the victims of the Friday mishap left Shanghai for America, the Shanghai Tourism Administration said.

"The families will identify the bodies after reaching Las Vegas," said Cheng Meihong, deputy director of the administration. "They will also visit the injured who are still hospitalized."

Cheng said the families will decide whether the bodies will be returned or the remains cremated in the US.

Another 11 family members will leave for the US today, along with an attorney and a doctor, Cheng said.

Seven people were killed and 10 others were injured during a sightseeing trip from Las Vegas, Nevada, to the Grand Canyon.

The bus suddenly swerved on an Arizona highway and overturned. One witness said the accident occurred when a front door opened and the driver tried to close it.

"We are focusing on the driver possibly being distracted for some unknown reason," Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Lieutenant James Warriner told The Associated Press.

Investigators have been unable to speak to the 48-year-old bus driver because of his injuries.

In addition to four of the dead, seven of the injured are from Shanghai.

Cheng said eight members of the tour group, including three who have been released from the hospital and five who weren't involved in the crash, are expected to return to the city in the next two days.

The charter bus company involved in Arizona crash had its certification in California suspended on Monday because its liability insurance lapsed, according to the Las Vegas Sun newspaper.

The company, DW Tour & Charter, of San Gabriel, California, reportedly owns two buses and employs four drivers, the newspaper said.

The company also had received an administrative violation notice last year and was fined US$750 by authorities for using unlicensed sub-carrier companies, according to the newspaper.

Shanghai tour insiders said yesterday that they have warned their partner agencies in the US and Europe to ensure service quality.

"Most of our receiving agencies abroad are run by Chinese," said Yu Weihua, general manager of the Shanghai China International Travel Service.

The Chinese-operated agencies can offer a more favorable price, and they also employ staff that share language and cultural backgrounds with Chinese tourists.

Yu said there is heavy demand for American journeys as the group tour market opened there just last year.

"Some agencies may be trying to handle business beyond their ability," Yu said. "For example, many agencies have to hire unlicensed tour guides and part-time drivers to cope with the many groups.

"Maybe the (Arizona) crash was a pure accident," the travel official said. "But we must learn something from it."


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