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Hong Kong courts

Driver of double-decker bus jailed for 2½ years in Hong Kong over rush-hour accident at road crossing that left 3 dead and 30 injured

  • Fong Kwing-wah, 45, pleaded guilty to one count of dangerous driving causing death and another of causing grievous bodily harm
  • His bus hit a taxi and mounted pavement at busy junction in Sham Shui Po
PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 December, 2018, 9:25pm
UPDATED : Monday, 10 December, 2018, 9:29pm

A bus driver was jailed for 2½ years on Monday over a rush-hour accident in one of Hong Kong’s busiest districts that left three people dead and 30 others injured when his double-decker mounted a pavement.

The District Court heard Fong Kwing-wah, 45, was driving on Citybus route E21A from Lantau Island when his vehicle hit a taxi and turned towards the pavement at the busy junction of Cheung Sha Wan Road and Yen Chow Street in Sham Shui Po at around 6.30pm on September 22 last year.

The bus ploughed into pedestrians at the crossing and slammed into an overhanging canopy, part of which went through the front window on the upper deck.

A passenger sitting on the sixth row of the upper deck was declared dead at the scene after firefighters found her head trapped by the concrete canopy. A pedestrian pinned under the double-decker and another trapped between the bus and pavement railings later succumbed to their injuries in hospital.

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Five other passengers and another two pedestrians also suffered grievous bodily harm that required between three and 42 days of hospitalisation. The injuries included bone fractures, punctured lungs, shoulder dislocation, back pains, bruises and abrasions.

The accident was one of the worst since 2008 when a speeding bus went out of control at a Sai Kung roundabout, leaving 18 people dead and 44 injured.

It prompted transport workers under the two biggest labour unions to call on the government to carry out a complete overhaul of franchised bus drivers’ pay structure and working hours to minimise fatigue and lower traffic accident risks.

Fong, a Citybus driver since 2012, pleaded guilty last month to one count of dangerous driving causing death and another of causing grievous bodily harm.

However, defence counsel Chan Siu-ming revealed in mitigation that he had advised Fong against pleading guilty because he believed his client’s driving was not dangerous by legal standards.

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“The defendant considered it was his neglect that caused the deaths and injuries and felt very remorseful so he insisted on pleading guilty,” Chan said.

“It’s unfortunate that his misjudgment within a split second caused a serious accident.”

But District Judge Frankie Yiu Fun-che noted that Fong was driving at more than 40km/h when he approached the junction and had applied only light braking.

“The speed was inappropriate to the road traffic situation,” Yiu said. “It was not momentary neglect.”

Nonetheless, the judge considered the case did not involve speeding, and as Fong had a clear criminal record, he reached a sentence starting point of 42 months, before giving him a 25 per cent discount for his early plea.

Fong was also suspended from driving all vehicles for the next five years and ordered to attend a driving improvement course three months before the suspension ended.

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He did not react to the sentence.

But members in the public gallery were heard crying and muttering dissatisfaction.

A woman, who would only say she was a relative, said in tears: “What a lenient sentence. People died. Three people died. I never expected the sentence to be so lenient, it’s not right.”

Dangerous driving causing death is punishable by 10 years’ imprisonment, while the less serious offence of causing grievous bodily harm carries a maximum sentence of seven years in jail.