North Point crash: police investigate whether handbrake was properly applied as four killed and 11 injured by runaway Hong Kong school bus
- Video footage shows bus starting to move just after driver gets out of the vehicle
- He chases in vain but is unable to stop bus careering down side street, across busy main road and crashing into shop
Four people were killed and 11 others injured when an unmanned school bus rolled 100 metres down a North Point street on Monday, hitting pedestrians and other vehicles before crashing to a standstill.
Rescuers who arrived at the scene found one man trapped under the right front wheel, another man stuck under the middle of the bus, and a woman pinned by the rear right wheel. They took 20 minutes to free them.
An 80-year-old woman, Ho Yuk-chun, was confirmed dead at the scene. Two men – Leung Hung, 83, and Yeung Man-kan, 77 – died in Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital, Chai Wan.
Another woman, Chan Shui-yee, 70, died in Ruttonjee Hospital, Wan Chai.
As of 10pm, three men remained in critical condition, two in Eastern Hospital and the other in Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam. One woman remained in a serious condition in Eastern Hospital.
Three people – two women and a man – were in a stable condition in Ruttonjee Hospital.
Chief Inspector Sun Lun-yum of the Hong Kong Island traffic unit said police were investigating whether the handbrake had been properly applied or whether there was a mechanical fault.
“A Fire Services Department member of staff found the handbrake was not applied,” he said.
The driver could face arrest for the incident, but Sun said the man was in no condition to give a statement. The 62-year-old, who was hit and dragged for about 20 metres, was in intensive care with serious head, neck and back injuries.
A police source said the driver had one conviction for careless driving on his record from 2010.
Video footage of the accident, which took place at around 2pm, showed the yellow 19-seater bus parked along Cheung Hong Street and the driver getting out of the vehicle.
Just as he slammed the door shut, the bus began moving. He realised what was happening and tried to stop the bus, but was knocked down and dragged as it took off.
“He ran to the front of the vehicle and tried in vain to stop it,” Sun said.
The bus mounted the pavement as it went all the way downhill, hitting pedestrians and two taxis before crossing the busy King’s Road and finally coming to a stop after crashing into a shop on Hei Wo Street.
Michael Chan, who works at Supreme Jeweler on the corner of King’s Road and Hei Wo Street, said he rushed out when he heard a loud bang.
“There were people crying for help and there was already a big crowd gathered,” Chan said. “I immediately called 999.”
Fifteen ambulances arrived at the scene.
Noting such a tragedy was uncommon for the area, Chan said: “This is not a traffic black spot.”
Sun said the driver began work at 7am, had just ended his shift and was about to hand over to a colleague when the accident happened.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor sent her condolences to the families of those who died and wished the injured a speedy recovery.
She said police would carry out a thorough investigation and added she could not comment on the incident.
But she appealed to motorists to pay attention to road safety because any unsafe behaviour on their part could have tragic consequences and affect many lives and families.
Monday’s accident was the city’s third serious incident in 10 days.
Last Thursday, a worker, 39, died after an unmanned truck rolled backwards and knocked him over before it crashed into the wall of a tunnel under construction in the border town of Sha Tau Kok. The case was classified as an industrial accident. The Labour Department was following up.
On December 5, a motorcyclist, 40, died in a head-on collision with a truck at Hong Kong International Airport.
On November 30, six people died and 31 others were injured after a coach taking 36 workers to the airport rammed into the back of a stationary taxi on a highway in Tsing Yi.
Police figures showed that 111 people died in 92 road accidents in the first 10 months of this year, including a bus crash in Tai Po in February, which left 19 dead and more than 60 injured.