HK probes bus crash after 19 killed
A deadly Hong Kong bus crash that killed 19 and left scores injured was under investigation yesterday, with the city’s leader calling for a wide-ranging inquiry as questions surfaced over the industry’s long hours and low pay.
Most victims of the accident on Saturday evening, which saw a double decker flip over and smash into a lamppost, were men aged in their 50s and 60s, though one man was 37.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who visited survivors at several hospitals over the weekend, expressed “deep sorrow” and announced compensation for the families of the dead and injured.
She also pledged an independent investigation, calling for a broad examination of the city’s bus franchise system.
There were heart-wrenching scenes at the site of the crash yesterday, as loved ones of the dead wailed with grief amid burning incense sticks at a makeshift commemoration.
“Come home,” one mourner cried, while others were so overcome with emotion they had to be supported by companions.
Police said 19 were killed and 65 injured, some critically, after the vehicle overturned in the north of the city. The driver has been arrested.
“The 30-year old male bus driver was arrested for dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm. He is still being detained for further inquiries,” police said.
The driver was suspected of breaking the speed limit as he lost control of the vehicle driving downhill, senior police traffic superintendent Lee Chi-wai said.
He was not injured and was found to be sober, Lee added.
Most of the injured and some of the dead were on the upper deck of the bus, Chan Hing-yu of the fire department told reporters.
The accident has reignited concern over working conditions for bus drivers in Hong Kong.
The vehicle was managed by the Kowloon Motor Bus Company, one of the main bus operators in Hong Kong.
Its “management is at fault, and it did not attach importance to traffic safety nor to the staffing structure, work and rest, and training of drivers”, Lai Siu-chung, from the company branch of the motor transport workers union, told reporters yesterday.
Lai said the company’s treatment of workers had led to labor shortages, adding that many drivers work under pressure and without adequate support.
“The industry wages of drivers have lagged behind inflation for many years ... as a result the number of drivers working extra shifts and part-time have increased,” said lawmaker Luk Chung-hung, who also questioned whether the company was paying enough attention to safety.
The company said it would pay compensation to survivors and victims’ families, but has not specifically responded to these allegations.