Sackings after pupils die in truck tragedy

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 December, 2010, 12:00am

Six education and traffic officials in Hunan have been fired after a public outcry triggered by the deaths of 14 primary school pupils when the three-wheeled farm truck they were travelling in to school fell into a river.

Hundreds of angry residents overturned an ambulance, blaming its late arrival for the children's deaths in the accident on Monday.

Others raced to get victims to hospitals, according to reports and photos posted on a bulletin board hosted by

Some blamed the closure of nearby schools for the accident, because it forced the students to travel to other schools. Others blamed substandard school bus services, a common complaint in rural areas.

'Apart from despair, nothing is left except indignation,' one internet user said, while another added: 'What's the point of keeping yourself alive when your children have gone?'

In an attempt to hold officials accountable, the Communist Party's committee in Hengnan county announced yesterday that county education bureau chief Wang Li and Yang Shixin , the transportation head of Songjiang town, had been sacked. Four other local education and traffic officials were also fired, Xinhua reported.

Local reports said up to 20 primary schoolchildren were packed into the truck, meant to accommodate no more than eight passengers, before they were locked in from the outside.

In thick fog early on Monday morning, the truck fell into a river about eight metres wide and four metres deep. The children failed to unlock the door and most of them drowned in the icy water.

Wang Xuming , a former spokesman for the Education Ministry, said many county-level administrations in rural districts could not afford proper school bus services.

He suggested local government, schools and parents share the costs, with sponsorship from charities.

But internet users heaped scorn on Wang's proposal, saying: 'How can you explain that the heads of party committees ... are entitled to luxurious sedans, but there is no money for school buses?'