Police are investigating a fatal road accident that took place on Monday involving a school minibus, with officers trying to confirm if failure or improper application of the handbrake led to the crash.
In the serious incident that took place in North Point, an empty minibus careened down a street just after the driver had exited the vehicle, plowing into pedestrians and claiming the lives of four people and injuring nearly a dozen.
According to Chief Inspector Sun Lun-yum from the police’s Hong Kong Island traffic unit, the driver may have forgotten to pull the handbrake or did not do so properly when he parked the vehicle on a downward slope.
That may have caused the minibus to roll down a street, striking passersby before it crashed into a storefront.
The investigation would focus on whether the driver properly applied the handbrake or whether there was mechanical error in the handbrake, the police officer said.
The deceased included an 80-year-old woman who died at the scene, a 70-year-old woman who died at Ruttonjee Hospital, and a 77-year-old man and an 83-year-old man, both of whom died at Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital.
The tragic accident also injured 11 other people, aged 22 to 89. Four of them, including the 62-year-old minibus driver, remained in critical condition at hospitals, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The driver suffered injuries as he got hit by the moving vehicle after he stepped out.
Expressing her sadness at the news, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the police will conduct a thorough investigation into the accident.
Speaking from Zhuhai where she gone to attend an event, Lam offered condolences to the families of those who died and wished the injured a speedy recovery.
She urged motorists to remain vigilant at all times about road safety, noting that unsafe behavior could affect many lives and families.
The accident took place at around 2 pm, when the school minibus driver was just about to get off work after having finished his second shift that day picking up kindergarteners. He parked the vehicle on Cheung Hong Street near Fort Street, in an area that bears an eight-degree slope downward.
Footage of a dashboard camera from a passing vehicle showed that immediately after the driver got off the minibus and closed the door, it suddenly skidded forward and began moving down the slope.
The shocked driver stood in front of it and tried to stop the minibus from sliding, only to be trapped underneath it and getting dragged for about 20 meters before he lay on the ground suffering serious injuries.
Meanwhile, the minibus just kept rolling down the street and hit two taxis, before hitting some pedestrians. It did not stop until it crossed King’s Road and rammed into a shop on Hei Wo Street.
It took firemen about 20 minutes to pull out one woman and two men who were trapped underneath the vehicle.
As the driver was fighting for life at the intensive care unit of Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital, the person in charge of the company which owns the minibus said the driver involved in the accident started his job about a year ago.
The person described the driver as being a good person who loves children very much and does not engage in rash driving.
After watching the footage, Lo Kok-keung, a retired engineer from the mechanical engineering department of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, noted that the minibus did not skid downward immediately after the driver got off the vehicle, but moved slowly down after he closed the door.
That suggests that the driver did not apply the handbrake in a secure fashion, Lo said.
Based on the inclination of the slope and the minibus’s speed of about 30 km/h when it was skidding, Lo calculated that the impact could be as strong as eight metric tons.
Data from the government show there were three accidents involving failure or improper application of handbrakes last year, causing three deaths.
This year, there have been two such incidents as of date, including the one that happened in North Point on Monday.
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