18 children killed in school bus crash
At least 18 children were killed yesterday when a nine-seater school minibus crammed with 62 kindergarten pupils, a teacher and a driver crashed head-on into a coal truck in Zhengning county, Gansu .
Forty-four children were injured, including 12 in serious condition. All of the victims were aged four or five. The driver and the teacher were also killed. The truck driver was detained by police.
China National Radio said the minibus was taking children to the Xiaoboshi kindergarten when it rammed into the coal truck on a street in the town of Yulinzi at 9.40am. The impact of the crash drove the front of the minibus back into the seats, ripped open the top and buckled the sides of the vehicle.
The accident sparked outcry among internet users, with many questioning how a nine-seater minibus could end up carrying 64 people. A photograph posted on internet chat rooms showed a school minibus with Gansu plates and the same school bus logo. The seats had been removed and replaced with benches.
Most of the victims suffered head and abdominal injuries. Five of the passengers died at the scene with 15 dying on their way to the hospital, China Central Television reported.
It is an open secret that school buses in poor areas are often overcrowded and refitted illegally to carry more passengers, but questions are now being asked about how children can be put in such danger.
One microblogger wrote: 'How can parents tolerate the overloading problem with school buses, which has seemingly become more and more prevalent these days?'
Another wrote: 'Please have a look at foreign school buses and compare their quality with that of ours. It is so distressing that they are overloading these buses. I'd like to say thanks to this society and to this country - thank you for achieving such a perfect mass murder.'
The head of the county publicity department said by phone yesterday that 12 victims were still being treated in local hospitals. 'They are all in stable condition,' the official said.
It is not the first time that overloaded school buses have led to multiple fatalities on the mainland.
In late December, 14 primary school pupils were killed and six injured when an overloaded school bus toppled into a river in Hengnan county, Hunan .
Four kindergarten pupils died and 26 were injured when the driver of a 10-seater school bus lost control and it fell into a pool in Loudi , Hunan, in October 2009.