Overhanging tree branches that struck a tour bus may have led it to crash, killing two Hong Kong tourists, in Jilin province, tour members said yesterday.
A man, 42, and a 60-year-old woman died after the coach ran into a truck carrying corn near Yushu wile it was heading from Harbin in Heilongjiang to Jilin on Friday.
Thirty-seven Hongkongers were on the sixth day of an eight-day Wing On Travel tour of three northeastern provinces. The bus also carried a guide from the mainland and another from Hong Kong.
Passenger Chan Chun-ho, who suffered a head injury, said in Jilin that the coach was not going fast, but the driver might have been distracted by tree branches striking the top of the coach just before the accident. 'The driver might have looked up and not seen the truck, which suddenly appeared before the collision,' he said.
A woman tour member agreed that she saw dangling branches.
However, police in Jilin said an investigation showed the coach driver had swerved to avoid a dog.
After hitting the truck, the coach plunged down a slope and landed on its side.
The husband of Chan Yuet-sing, the woman who died, said the pair were sleeping before the crash.
'There was a loud bang and I knew we had crashed,' he said. 'My wife was thrown from the coach. I couldn't free her from the wreckage.' He injured his hands on shattered glass as he tried to save her.
Last night he and two other tourists remained in Jilin, where four of the injured holidaymakers are still in hospital. One, the dead man's wife, had her right arm amputated, while a 58-year-old woman has chest and shoulder injuries. The others, both men, were being treated for unspecified injuries.
Another 28 tour members, half of whom had needed hospital treatment in Jilin for minor injuries, flew back to Hong Kong last night. Following their arrival, some were sent to hospital for further treatment. Earlier, eight relatives of the dead and injured tourists flew to Harbin with Wing On and immigration staff.
'My dad called me immediately after the accident happened [on Friday],' the dead woman's son said. 'I contacted the travel agency as soon as I heard the news.'
He said his father hoped that his mother's body would be sent back to Hong Kong as soon as possible.
A man whose wife was injured said he learned about the accident from news reports, but could not contact his wife.
'I asked to fly to the scene, but the agency didn't take the initiative ... it promised that our family members would call us, but that didn't happen either,' he said before boarding a flight from Hong Kong.
Chief immigration officer Choi Chi-yuen said the government had sought help from the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council. Choi said Jilin and Heilongjiang authorities attended the scene of the accident.
Additional reporting by Simpson Cheung