Death wish: Investigators of Taiwan bus blaze think driver may have been suicidal

Su Ming-cheng had been drinking heavily and may have stored petrol on the bus, according to prosecutors in Taoyuan

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 July, 2016, 5:56pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 July, 2016, 11:58pm

Taiwanese investigators are searching for clues as to whether the driver in a deadly bus blaze was trying to kill himself, after finding that he had been driving the coach while drunk.

The latest findings show that the driver, Su Ming-cheng, had consumed a great deal of liquor before he took a group of mainland ­tourists to the airport at the end of an eight-day visit to Taiwan on July 19.

All on board the coach, including 24 tourists from Liaoning province, the Taiwanese guide and the driver, died when the burning bus smashed into a crash barrier on Taiwan’s No 2 highway, just a few minutes from Taoyuan International Airport.

“We do not rule out any possibility – whether the driver wanted to kill himself, or inclined to set himself on fire or anything – and we will continue our probe into the case via various directions,” said Wang Yi-wen, a spokesman for the local prosecutor’s office

Wang said a blood sample collected from the driver’s body showed that he had been driving while strongly under the influence of alcohol.

“Such consumption could weaken the driver’s sense, resulting in a loss of judgment when driving,” Wang said.

26 people, including 24 mainland Chinese, killed in tour bus blaze in Taiwan

On Sunday, investigators also found evidence of petrol in five containers – including two near the driver’s seat – on the bus. That has helped fuel speculation that the driver – reportedly an introvert who rarely talked to his colleagues – might have wanted to commit suicide.

Under Taiwanese law, no petrol is allowed on board tour buses. Investigators are trying to find out who brought the fuel onto the coach.

Families of all but one of the victims have accepted a compensation deal from the relevant insurance companies, with each family eligible to claim NT$6.64 million (HK$1.59 million). But the family members have reserved the right to sue the bus company and other relevant bodies, and to make extra compensation claims if the accident was found to have been caused by human error, according to Taiwan’s transport ministry.