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Autopsy ordered on bridge bus driver

A FORENSIC autopsy was ordered yesterday on the driver who was thrown through the windshield of his bus in the fatal accident on Yangpu Bridge on Sunday night.

Traffic police officials said it was vital to find out the exact cause of his death.

The accident has raised debate in Shanghai on whether it is necessary for passenger buses to have safety belts.

The accident that killed three people and injured 27 happened about 9:30pm as a Bridge Route No.3 bus of Bashi Yiqi Co was traveling across the bridge.

The bus first crashed into the back of a tractor-trailer and then hit a taxi travelling in the opposite lane head-on, causing a chain reaction.

The driver of the bus, surnamed Chen, was thrown out of the windscreen after the first collision. The bus then zigzagged without a driver, hitting eight vehicles before it was stopped by a passenger, who pulled the handbrake.

No city transit buses were equipped with safety belts, officials from the Shanghai Public Transport Industry Association said yesterday.

China has not legislated on the mandatory use of seat belts on large commuter buses.

However, a state rule for automobile manufacturers says that smaller buses, of less than 20 seats or shorter than 6 meters, must be equipped with seat belts.

Most city transit bus drivers said it was not necessary to use seat belts as their vehicles could withstand much more impact than cars.

All transit buses in Shanghai are operated by state-owned companies.

"Normally it would be impossible for a driver to fly out of the windscreen when holding the steering wheel," said Zhang Zuoping of Dazhong Public Transportation Co.

Zhang said drivers would steer away from danger.

Police have already ruled out the possibility of drunken driving.

Many experienced bus drivers believe the driver involved in the fatal accident may have been unconscious before the first collision.

Chen's colleagues said he had shown no signs of discomfort before beginning his fatal run.

Bus drivers also said the hero who pulled the handbrake must have had experience as a transit driver.

It would be difficult for people not familiar with buses to even find the handbrake amid such a chaos, said a driver on the No. 49 bus route, surnamed Wu.

"It was very brave and smart of him to pull the handbrake because he was likely to be thrown out of the broken windscreen."

Eleven injured victims remain in hospital. Bashi Yiqi Co officials visited the victims yesterday and promised to cover all medical fees.


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