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Fatal bus fire tied to suicide

THE blaze that engulfed a crowded transit bus in southwest China's Sichuan Province in early June killing 27 people was set by a man who was angry at his family and had threatened suicide, police said yesterday.

The man was identified as 62-year-old Zhang Yunliang, a native of Suzhou in east China's Jiangsu Province who began living in Chengdu in 2006. He burned to death at the rear of the bus after setting the fire, which also injured 74 people, police said.

Investigators said Zhang was an unemployed gambling addict who lived off his daughter. He threatened suicide after his daughter reduced his financial support this year because he continued to gamble and engage in prostitution.

When Zhang's pleas for more money were ignored by his family, he threatened to commit suicide, police said.

Zhang told his daughter in a phone call on June 4 that he would "disappear" the next day in an "unusual" manner.

His family in Jiangsu received a suicide note from Chengdu days after Zhang's death, police said. Its contents were not revealed.

"Zhang had threatened suicide to his family many times and had displayed depressed emotions before the bus fire," police said.

The blaze took place on June 5, sometime after Zhang boarded the bus in Tianhui Township, the starting point of the No. 9 line in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan. He got on the bus carrying a plastic bucket full of gasoline, according to police.

Some of the passengers who survived the blaze said they saw Zhang pour the gasoline onto the floor while the bus was heading to Chengdu's downtown.

Forensic investigators found traces of gas running from Zhang's reported location to the front of the bus. The area where Zhang was positioned sustained the heaviest damage, which suggested it was the origin of the fire, forensic experts said.

A part of a lighter was discovered beside Zhang's body, and his positioning showed he made no attempt to escape, experts added.


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