Lam vows judge-led probe after Tai Po bus crash claims 19 lives

February 12, 2018 12:53
High-ranking government officials and KMB senior management attend a ritual on Sunday at the scene of a deadly bus accident. Chief Executive Carrie Lam (inset, center) has promised an independent inquiry commission to look into the tragedy. Photos: AFP, H

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has pledged an independent commission of inquiry after Hong Kong witnessed over the weekend the city's deadliest bus accident in 15 years.

Following a tragic incident in Tai Po on Saturday, when a double-decker bus flipped on its side and killed 19 people, Lam visited the Prince of Wales Hospital late in the evening that day to meet the survivors of the accident. 

Talking to reporters, Lam expressed deep grief over the loss of lives and said an inquiry commission will be set up to investigate the tragedy, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The inquiry, which will cover road safety, driving safety and bus operations issues, will be led by a judge, the chief executive said, adding that it will be tasked with coming up with recommendations to ensure the safety and reliability of the public transport system.

Lam also revealed that an interdepartmental meeting that was held immediately after the Saturday news has decided on follow-up action by focusing on eight different aspects.

Among the steps outlined is arranging visits of social workers to provide support for the affected 79 families.

At around 6:15 pm on Saturday, a No. 872 KMB double-decker bus that was on its way from Sha Tin racecourse to Tai Po Centre flipped over to its side when it was taking a turn near Tai Po Kau.

The driver, a 30-year-old surnamed Chan, is believed to have lost control of the vehicle, with some surviving passengers saying the vehicle was running at abnormally high speed when the accident occurred.

As the bus hit a lamp post after sliding, its upper deck was smashed nearly completely. More casualties were found at the upper deck than in the lower deck.

Lo Kok-keung, a former engineer in the mechanical engineering department of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said after an on-site inspection that the braking marks left by the bus suggested it was running at a speed of at least 68 km/hour at the turn, although it should have slowed down to 30-40 km/h as it was full of passengers.

Apart from killing 19 people, the crash left a total of 66 people injured and hospitalized. Among the injured, nine were in critical condition as of Sunday night.

The driver, who survived the accident, has been detained for suspected dangerous driving causing death and causing grievous bodily harm. It is possible that he could face a charge of manslaughter.

Saturday's incident marked the deadliest bus accident in Hong Kong since 2003, when 21 people were killed after a KMB bus fell off a flyover on Tuen Mun Road.

A roadside mourning ritual was held at the scene Sunday noon, with senior executives from the Kowloon Motor Bus Co. (KMB) and multiple high-ranking government officials, including Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chun, Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan and Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah, as well as some lawmakers, attending the event.

As of Sunday night, around HK$43 million has come in as donations to support the families of the victims.

Lam said the family of each person killed by the crash will receive HK$300,000, and each hospitalized victim will get between HK$150,000 and HK$250,000.

Asked why KMB hired Chan who was said to have had a bad driving record, chairman Norman Leung Nai-pang did not answer the question but only said the company will donate HK$10 million for distribution to the families of the deceased and injured.

The bus operator will also release consolation money of HK$80,000 to each affected family.

KMB's legal department will also assist all the affected families on insurance claims.

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