Tunnel firm gives contradictory statements on highway accident

March 08, 2019 15:45
The Western Harbour Tunnel Company, which operates the Western Harbour Crossing, has been asked to submit a detailed report on how it handled the deadly accident on Monday. Photo: HKEJ

The Western Harbour Tunnel Company, which operates the Western Harbour Crossing, offered details on how it handled the deadly bus crash on Monday morning, but parts of its latest statement on Thursday were different from what it said earlier.

The accident, in which a Citibus double-decker slammed into a light goods vehicle that had broken down in the second lane of West Kowloon Highway within the tunnel area, killing the drivers of both vehicles and injuring 16 passengers.

Responding to media inquiries, a spokesman for the Transport Department said on Tuesday that the scene of the accident was covered by a CCTV system installed at the tunnel.

However, the tunnel company's central control room did not switch on an overhead warning sign nor did it dispatch a recovery vehicle to the scene until it was informed by a citizen that a truck had stalled in the area, the Transport Department said.

In a statement released on Thursday, the tunnel company admitted that the site of the accident is within the area covered by CCTV cameras but a camera had not been turned in the direction where the truck had stalled, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports. 

According to the statement, the company’s patrol staff also did not notice the stalled lorry because they happened to be patrolling another area in the tunnel.

Earlier, however, the company said the staff were dealing with another road accident involving four vehicles at the time of the deadly crash.

Also, the company said earlier that a recovery vehicle was dispatched to the scene seven minutes after it received a citizen's report at 10:12 a.m., which was before the accident happened.

However, it said in the statement that the accident happened just before the patrol car arrived.

In light of the accident, the tunnel operator said it was considering a series of measures, including enhancing the effectiveness of its CCTV system, increasing the frequency of the CCTV camera scanning as well as that of patrolling, and add more signs in the tunnel to inform motorists how to make emergency calls when necessary.

During a visit to the Central and Western District Council on Thursday, Commissioner for Transport Mable Chan Mei-bo said the fatal accident happened within a traffic surveillance zone, adding that the Transport Department has asked the tunnel operator to submit a report and come up with measures to improve its safety and response mechanisms.

Asked whether the crash involves any negligence on the part of the tunnel operator, Chan said this will be decided after she receives the detailed report she was asking for.

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