Cathay Dragon

Driver of van that crashed into Dragonair plane felt unwell before incident, colleagues say

Employer releases driver’s roster showing he had day off two days earlier

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 September, 2016, 9:57am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 September, 2016, 11:19pm

Colleagues of the driver who crashed his van into a Dragonair plane said he had complained of feeling unwell in the hours preceding the incident, police sources said.

Citing an ongoing investigation, China Aircraft Services, the driver’s employer, declined to comment on whether a report was made to his supervisor or management, or whether management took action on the complaint, if a doctor or medical check was sought immediately, and why the driver was not pulled from his shift in a highly dangerous working environment.

On Thursday afternoon, the van collided with a Dragonair plane carrying 295 passengers and crew at Hong Kong International Airport, leaving the driver trapped in the vehicle with head injuries. Flight KA691 was leaving an apron heading to the runway.

While not commenting on the aforementioned issues, China Aircraft Services did release a statement on the driver’s most recent schedule.

Prior to the accident on September 8, the driver had a day off on September 6. On the next two days he was rostered to work from 10am to 7pm, with no indication of overtime recorded.

The company said the employee did not have any changes to his roster on the day in question, or in recent months.

In an update on the driver’s health, company spokeswoman Jackie Huang said a preliminary examination and information from the doctor revealed he was “not critically injured and is still being hospitalised for observation”. It added the company was “deeply concerned” about him.

The company said it would provide the driver and his family full assistance as he recovered and that it would take “follow-up action” to avoid similar incidents.

Huang added the company was now working with the related parties to investigate the details. It expected a comprehensive report “as soon as possible”.

The Civil Aviation Department was overseeing the investigation as the accident had happened inside a restricted area of the airport.

Concerns have separately been raised about the aviation regulator’s role as an air accident investigator, specifically relating to a lack of independence and investigative fairness.

Dramatic footage of the incident showed the van driving directly towards the Airbus A330 as it rolled towards the runway. The van appeared to shift to the right of the plane at the last moment, avoiding its belly but hitting one of its engines.

The van was dragged several metres along the tarmac. At the point of collision, a member of the airport ground staff rushed in front of the plane signalling frantically for it to stop.

The video appeared to corroborate initial claims that the van driver was at fault.

Any probe would seek to determine whether the driver was under the influence of a substance, intoxicated, had a medical issue, fell unconscious at the wheel or was distracted.