Bus crash driver is charged with drink driving

Police say he was three times the legal limit when vehicle plunged down hill

The driver of the bus that plunged down a mountainside in Taiwan, killing five Hong Kong tourists, has been detained and charged with drink driving.

His blood-alcohol level after the crash was found to be three times the legal limit of 0.05 per cent, police said yesterday.

The Taiwanese company contracted to conduct the tour was meanwhile suspended for four months by regulators because it did not have insurance cover for the passengers.

The driver, Syu Jhong-sing, whose leg was broken in the crash at the scenic mountain town of Jioufen, could face 71/2 years in jail if convicted of drunk driving and endangering public safety, Transportation Ministry official Chang Sheng-ching said. By last night, Syu had not come up with the NT$1 million (HK$230,000) bail set by police.

As bereaved relatives travelled to Taiwan to make offerings at the crash site, 27 tour group members returned to Hong Kong yesterday. The Hong Kong government was last night preparing a special charter flight to bring back those who were seriously injured.


Syu, in a wheelchair and his head covered with a coat, was taken from hospital to the scene for a reconstruction of the accident.

Earlier, he admitted to a television station that he had been drinking the night before the crash but rejected claims by some tourists that he had been talking on a mobile phone as he drove.

'Sorry, no, I wouldn't be on the phone while driving on a steep slope. You can check my phone records,' he said. Taiwanese police confirmed that records showed he had not made a call at the time.

Survivors said on Monday that Syu was in a bad mood and had been driving too fast before the bus crashed through a guard rail and plunged down a slope in the northern Taiwanese town just after 2.30pm.


As well as the five people killed, the other 31 people on board - 28 tourists, a Hong Kong guide, a Taiwanese guide and the driver - were all injured in the crash.

Hong Kong company Kwan Kin Tours, organiser of the two tour groups on the bus, said it had been unaware of the driver's traffic offences, which included two suspensions for drink driving, one for six months and one for 15 months. 'If the driver had drunk before driving, and if we did not spot that, we of course would follow up on it,' Kwan Kin Tours assistant general manager Fong Cheuk-yuen said.


Kwan Kin also confirmed that Zhong Chun, which it contracted to conduct the tours, had not bought insurance for the tourists.

Taipei county ombudsman Kun Jung-chen promised to investigate why the agency had failed to do so, and to help victims and their relatives pursue compensation.

Zhong Chun, which has been doing business with Kwan Kin for more than 10 years, said it would pay NT$5,000 to each injured victim and $100,000 to each of the five families whose relatives died.


Police were yesterday examining the wreckage of the nine-year-old bus for signs of mechanical failure. The driver said after the crash that the brakes had failed.

In Hong Kong, Travel Industry Council executive director Joseph Tung Yao-chung, said the council would instruct its members to monitor their contract partners closely.

But he said there was no requirement for Hong Kong agencies to buy liability insurance for travellers.


Relatives of the victims at the accident scene yesterday complained about the arrangements.

'I want to transport my daughter's body back. They said they want to carry out an autopsy. Why? She was not a patient,' said Yeung Kam-shek, the father of Yeung Siu-man, who was killed in the crash.

Mr Yeung said he had urged his daughter not to go to Taiwan after it was hit by earthquakes last month.