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Ferry death payout for family

THE family of a woman drowned after her car reversed from a ferry into the river last Friday has been paid an initial 400,000 yuan (US$58,510) comfort money by the ferry company. The cause of the accident is still being investigated.

But the dead woman may not have been insured - while her husband and son had bought passenger tickets, she had bought a ticket for the vehicle and vehicle tickets apparently do not carry personal insurance.

The insurance company would normally have to pay 100,000 yuan for the accidental death of a passenger who had bought a passenger ticket.

Yesterday Shanghai Yatong Co Ltd, which runs the ferries to Chongming Island, told Shanghai Daily it had paid 400,000 yuan to the victim's family.

"We meant this just to comfort the family and the money paid was not part of any compensation agreement because the incident and those involved in it are still being investigated," Fan Benxiao, company manager, said yesterday.

The victim was taking the ferry from Baoyang Dock with her husband and son. The accident happened when the woman, Cai Hongjian, 39, was parking the car on the vessel as her family waited nearby but the car sped backward and over a guardrail.

Ferry crew threw a life buoy into the water and held her husband and son to stop them diving in. They watched in horror as the car floated for nearly a minute before it disappeared.

An Internet clip of the accident, filmed by a witness, has created controversy with some Netizens accusing the ferry crew and a nearby maritime patrol boat of not taking prompt action. But the maritime authorities said it would have been technically impossible for the two officers on board to save the victim.

An official investigation should be concluded in 10 days, the Yatong Company said. The company has been raising guardrails on all its 15 island ferries since the accident.

The car was traveling fast enough to jump a 30-centimeter rail. The rails on the ferries are being raised to 50 centimeters.

The maritime safety administration has not discussed compensation to Cai's family. Its patrol boat was 30 meters away from the sinking car but the officers were only trained to keep shipping order and were not professional life-savers, the maritime authorities said. The family has not talked about any legal action.


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