Death crash school bus 'overloaded with 87 pupils'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 December, 2011, 12:00am


The 52-seat school bus that overturned into an icy ditch last week, killing 15 children in Jiangsu province, was overloaded with 87 passengers - more than double the official figure - according to an investigative journalist.

The claim by Yan Yaobin, a reporter at the China Business Journal, has added to public doubts over the death toll. Yan posted the names of the 87 pupils, which he said were provided by parents, on his Sina weibo page over the weekend.

The authorities had already revised the number of pupils on the bus from the 29 claimed by officials in Feng county, where the accident happened last Monday, to 'at least 41' on Wednesday.

The driver of the bus was quoted in reports as saying there were 47 on board.

Yan, who went to Feng county to cover the accident, said: 'I got the names from the parents, but I haven't had the chance to verify them one by one yet.'

Yan asked in his posting: 'If the bus was not overloaded [as the authorities claimed], then how could 15 of the 41 pupils in it be drowned?

'The [water in the] ditch was less than 60cm deep.'

Yan and a reporter from the Beijing-based Economic Observer stayed in the village after the central propaganda department ordered all media to use only the Xinhua version of school bus stories.

The Observer's story was killed before being printed, according to a reporter who declined to be named, while Yan's story was published last Saturday but without any passenger figures.

Dozens of pupils have been killed and scores injured in a series of school bus accidents in recent weeks, prompting Beijing to issue strict guidelines aimed at preventing such incidents.