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Thursday, July 21, 2016, 20:42

Mainland official 'dissatisfied' with Taiwan bus fire

By Guo Kai
Mainland official 'dissatisfied' with Taiwan bus fire
Investigators inspect a bus carrying tourists from the Chinese mainland that crashed and caught fire along an expressway on its way to the airport in Taoyuan, Taiwan on July 19, 2016. (Photo / AFP)

TAIPEI - A Chinese mainland official on Thursday expressed "strong dissatisfaction" with a serious tour-bus accident on Tuesday in Taiwan.

Liu Kezhi, secretary-general of the Association for Tourism Exchange Across the Taiwan Straits, made the statement to the press in Taoyuan City after a remembrance service for those who died in the accident.

Liu said he hoped Taiwan would launch a thorough investigation into the accident and listen to the relatives of the victims when handling the aftermath of the accident.

Twenty-six people, 23 tourists and a tour guide from the mainland and two local people -- a driver and a tour guide, were killed when a tour bus crashed into a highway barrier and caught fire near Taoyuan airport on Tuesday.

According to the official, the mainland-based association had repeatedly urged Taiwan to ensure the safety of mainland tourists after a series of accidents involving a number of mainland tourist casualties.

Liu is leading a mainland working group that arrived in Taiwan Wednesday to help handle the accident.

Families of mainland victims arrived on the island via a charter flight on Thursday.

The remains of the victims will be cremated July 24 and a funeral service is scheduled to be held on July 25, according to a statement from the Taiwan Strait Tourism Association.

Meanwhile, prosecutors in Taoyuan district said the driver of the bus might have gone into coma after inhaling poisonous smoke.

According to local media reports, the post mortem showed that the driver's respiratory tract was burnt and choked, a sign that he possibly inhaled high temperature smoke, prosecutors said.

They said the driver was possibly poisoned by carbon monoxide and fell into coma and lost control of the bus.

Some eyewitnesses have claimed that the bus kept going for 1,000 meters after catching fire and the driver did not open the emergency exits in time. They said he should have survived since the emergency exit was near his seat.

Prosecutors have sent samples of the driver's remains to forensic experts to find if he had poor health or was on alcohol or drugs.

The fire began from the front part of the vehicle, and prosecutors found that the wires got mixed up at some point, possibly due to overload.

Some have speculated that the short circuit was caused by the water dispenser and Karaoke equipment near the driver's seat.

Prosecutors combed through the vehicle to see if there were some other flammable things at the front of the bus, such as cigarette butts in the trash can or on the ground, pesticides or wine near the driver's seat.

One of the major reasons for the heavy casualties was that the left rear emergency exit did not open. The investigators found that the exit had a built-in lock system that should not have been there.

They also discovered similar built-in lock system at another bus of the same type from the same company. Prosecutors said they would further investigate the buses.

(With Xinhua input)

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