7 injured as truck mounts pavement
Austin Chiu and Cheung Chi-fai
Five pedestrians narrowly escaped death yesterday when a truck ran onto the pavement of a busy Sham Shui Po street, hitting a fire hydrant, traffic lights, lamp post and railings.
A 59-year-old woman was seriously injured when thrown from the passenger seat of the truck, and the driver was trapped by the legs and had to be rescued by firemen.
The five pedestrians and the truck's occupants were admitted to hospitals. The woman was in critical condition last night after surgery in Princess Margaret Hospital, Kwai Chung. The driver was in serious condition in Caritas Medical Centre, Sham Shui Po, where a pedestrian was in stable condition. The other injured were treated and discharged.
The 60-year-old driver, who passed a breath test, blamed the accident on faulty brakes, but driving specialists suggested the rainy weather, a poor driving attitude and the age of the vehicle could have been contributing factors. The Transport Department said the site was not an accident black spot.
Police said the unladen truck was travelling in rain southbound along Tai Po Road before the driver lost control of it approaching the junction with Shek Kip Mei Street at about 1pm. The truck first hit a road sign outside a convenience store, then crossed the street and mounted the pavement on the other side.
An attendant in the convenience store, Jane Ma, called police at 1.09pm after she heard two loud bangs and saw the truck run into the Chinese herbal tea shop opposite her store. 'The truck was moving very fast, like racing speed,' she said.
It first hit a railing and a road sign in front of her shop, throwing fragments of glass from the truck's shattered wing mirror into the shop, she said. It then careered across the road and mounted the pavement, knocking down a traffic light, fire hydrant and railings on the way.
Equipment in the front of the herbal tea shop was flattened, leaving a pool of herbal tea and pieces of shattered bowls. Lighting fixtures under the signboard were left dangling in the air.
The owner of the noodle shop next to the tea shop, Wong Ngok-sung, said he was cooking in his kitchen when he heard the crash. 'I heard two loud sounds - bang, bang - and I rushed out of the kitchen,' he said. 'At that point I was thinking, 'Oh my god, could it be another building collapse?' Then I found that it was a crash. A woman was thrown out of the truck about 1.5 metres, landing before the bakery shop [next door].'
The signboard of Wong's shop was smashed to pieces and scattered throughout the shop. The truck also broke the shop's gate and damaged a fridge placed at the shopfront.
A woman, who was eating noodles with her three-year-old son in the shop, narrowly escaped injury. 'I was petrified and my son was screaming. I was scared. I carried my son in my arms and fled the scene,' she said, adding that she left her shoes in the shop and ran.
Vehicle Repair Merchants Association chairman Ringo Lee Yiu-pui said the crash might have been prevented if the truck was equipped with an auto-braking system commonly found on newer models. The computerised system, not built into trucks older than 10 years, could avoid skids by balancing the braking force applied to the wheels.
'The brakes could have locked the wheels too tight so that the vehicle might have been drifting on the slippery road surface,' he said.
Lee advised drivers to pay attention to speed and braking when a truck was empty because it could be more difficult to control then a laden vehicle.
However, Commercial Vehicle Driving Instructors Association chairman Cheng Cho-kwong, who visited the scene yesterday, said he believed a poor driving attitude, the rainy weather and the road design were factors behind the accident.
'Many truck drivers tend to ram their vehicle through the traffic lights at higher speed,' he said. 'In this case, the slippery road surface and the slight bend of the road might aggravate the problem.'
Sham Shui Po district councillor Vincent Cheng Wing-shun said cars tended to travel at high speed along Tai Po Road because it was linked to a high-speed road from Sha Tin. He suggested adding another road intersection on Tai Po Road to force cars to slow down.