Three dead as speeding minibus rams truck

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 July, 2009, 12:00am

Three people died and 14 were injured - two critically - when a minibus ran into the back of an overloaded container truck yesterday.

The speed detector inside the 44A minibus, travelling from Tuen Mun to Sheung Shui, was beeping and showing 85km/h - 5km/h above the limit - when it crashed at 5.30am on the Yuen Long Highway, said a police officer involved in the investigation.

Police are also investigating whether the driver fell asleep as there were no skid marks at the scene.

Minibus driver Lai Kwong-man, 51, was killed along with passengers, Suen Sau-wan, 49, and Tung Yiu-man, 53. All the injured - 12 men and two women - were minibus passengers. The truck driver, 54, surnamed Ng, was unhurt.

Two men, aged 27 and 34, were last night in critical condition, and three men and one woman were in serious condition.

Police arrested the truck driver on suspicion of dangerous driving after his truck was found carrying 48 tonnes of plastic goods, 10 tonnes more than the legal limit for the vehicle. He was released on HK$5,000 bail and told to report back on August 11.

The accident comes days after a Legislative Council meeting in which lawmaker Wong Kwok-hing - who uses the route twice a week - raised concerns about speeding minibuses, and demanded that the Transport Department and police take action.

Mr Wong urged police yesterday to launch an undercover operation against drivers, and suggested more speed cameras and 'black boxes' in minibuses to keep a permanent record of their speeds.

Police said the truck's heavy weight caused it to lose speed and the two vehicles became entangled before stopping 50 metres down the road. Lai and four passengers were trapped and had to be cut free by firefighters.

Lai had been driving the route for about four years and had started work at 5am. The truck driver said he was travelling at about 50km/h when the minibus hit him.

'As it was running uphill, there was a loud bang. I thought it was a burst tyre,' he said. But police believe the truck may have slowed to just 30km/h. They said it was not an accident black spot.

Speed detectors became mandatory three years ago after a number of accidents involving minibuses caused a public outcry and forced a policy review. They start to beep when the vehicle exceeds 80km/h.

Leung Hung, chairman of the Hong Kong, Kowloon and New Territories Public and Maxicab Light Bus Merchants United Association, said police should carry out more undercover operations to tackle bad drivers. 'Some drivers damage the speed detector to stop it beeping.'