New World First Bus driver unconscious before crash
Jennifer Ngo and Lai Ying-kit
Video tapes showed the bus driver involved in the Shau Kei Wan crash that killed 3 and injured 56 on Monday was unconscious for 10 seconds before his vehicle went out of control and caused a three-vehicle pile-up, New World First Bus company said on Tuesday.
The out-of-control bus struck two cars before hitting a taxi and another bus. The three people in the taxi all died.
The tape showed the driver’s head lolling back when his bus swerved out of its lane at an intersection in Chai Wan Road, New World First Bus development director William Chung Chak-man told the press.
“We believe the driver was unwell,” he said. But the company still does not know the details of what happened, since it has not been able to talk at length with the driver, Lau Chit, 57.
Three people died and 56 were injured in Monday’s crash involving two double-decker buses and a taxi.
Chung said the driver, who joined the company in 1998, had a good driving record with only a few minor road accidents, and had passed his medical examinations in July this year.
Contrary to some reports on Monday, Chung said the driver had actually had two days’ holiday on Saturday and Sunday. He was supposed to have Monday off as well, but had volunteered to work on the day, said Chung.
The company requires all drivers older than 50 to be tested annually. Tests include blood, urine, blood pressure, sight and hearing as well as X-rays, said Chung. Those over 60 require an electrocardiograph as well.
New World First was open to including electrocardiographs in the medical exams for those under 60 and would discuss this issue with its medical advisers, Chung said.
The company would also review its medical inspection policies and safety regulations in light of the accident, he said.
The bus in the accident had been in use for only two years, and it had passed all requirements at its last inspection on October 31. The bus is still with the police, so the company has not yet been able to inspect it for any malfunction.
New World First has set up a hotline for friends and family of the injured and deceased, and Chung said so far two people have called it.
The company has not yet been able to contact all the injured parties and their families.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 18 people of the injured people remained in hospital. One person is in a critical condition, five people are in serious condition, and the remainder are listed as stable.
The three people in the taxi - the driver and two passengers - were trapped inside the vehicle for more than an hour before firemen could free them from the wreckage. They were later declared dead at the hospital.