Passenger killed as minibus slams into police car
A passenger was killed and eight others injured when the minibus in which they were travelling hit a police car parked along a Tai Po expressway early yesterday.
The fully loaded minibus was travelling from Mong Kok towards Sheung Shui on the Tolo Highway when it ploughed into the back of the police car, pushing it forward more than 20 metres before coming to a stop at an anti-crash barrier.
Two officers who had got out of the car to inspect a broken-down taxi in the slow lane said they leapt to safety when the crash happened at around 2am. An officer said the minibus was being driven at high speed.
Tam Chi-wan, 58, who was sitting in the front seat on the left side of the minibus, was thrown forward and hit the handrail near the door. He was pronounced dead at Prince of Wales Hospital at 3.21am.
The eight injured passengers - five male and three female and aged between 16 and 58 - were treated at Prince of Wales and Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole hospitals.
Police are investigating whether the minibus, a 'green-top' vehicle operating a scheduled service, was speeding. The limit at the crash site is 80km/h.
The 24-year-old minibus driver, who was uninjured, told police that 'there was a flash of light and he feared he had been spotted by a speed detector, [then] lost focus before his vehicle crashed', a traffic-unit officer investigating the incident said. But police said there were no speed-test operations at the time.
The driver was arrested on suspicion of dangerous driving causing death. He was granted bail as investigators needed more time to inspect the minibus, which was towed to a government facility in Tuen Mun.
The driver was ordered to report back to police next month.
The investigator said the driver must have seen the stationary police car, as the two officers had switched on the hazard lights when they parked the car 150 metres behind the taxi. 'It is a straight [two-lane] carriageway. Our officers had switched on the car's hazard lights ... and they had their reflective safety vests,' the investigator said. 'There is enough lighting at the site. There's no reason the [minibus] driver could not see our car and officers.'
After the crash, the police car came to a stop in the fast lane of the expressway, with the back of the vehicle badly damaged.
Police appealed for witnesses to provide information by calling 3661 3800 or 3661 3819.
Official figures showed there were 44 recorded traffic accidents in the first five months of the year, in which 45 people died. Last year, 130 people died in 128 recorded accidents.