HONG KONG: The driver of a double-decker bus that overturned in Hong Kong killing at least 19 people and injuring more than 60 was arrested on Saturday evening for dangerous driving, police said.
Images from the scene showed rescuers trying to reach passengers trapped inside the bus, which lay on its side with part of its roof torn off near the town of Tai Po in the northern New Territories.
It appeared to have slid on its side and hit a lamppost which smashed into the upper decks of the vehicle. The driver has been arrested on charges of causing death and grievous bodily harm by dangerous driving.
In an updated toll in the early hours of Sunday morning the city’s Hospital Authority said another victim had died, bringing the total to 19 fatalities.
But ten of the injured were in critical condition, while another 20 were seriously wounded, officials said.
Most of the dead and injured were on the upper deck of the bus, Chan Hing-yu of the fire department told reporters.
The driver was suspected of being over the speed limit as he went down a slope and lost control of the vehicle, senior traffic superintendent Lee Chi-wai told reporters.
He was not in need of any medical treatment after the crash and was be sober, he added.
Speaking to local media, passengers said the bus was going to fast before the crash.
“It was much faster than I normally felt in a bus,” one injured passenger told the South China Morning Post’s online edition.
“And then it was like the tyre slipped, and the bus turned. It was really chaotic in the bus. People fell on one another and got tossed from side to side,” he said.
Before the crash, passengers had complained to the driver who was reportedly 10 minutes late and he then started speeding up, the Apple Daily reported, quoting injured passengers at the scene.
One injured passenger told the Oriental Daily said it was like the driver was “intentionally using the bus to throw a tantrum.”
Lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting of the Democratic Party urged the government to rethink the design of double-decker buses saying the upper decks had been “repeatedly torn off in accidents, posing a serious threat to passengers on the upper level.”
He also called the government to address the issue of many drivers working overly long hours.
City leader Carrie Lam, who visited survivors at the Prince of Wales Hospital late on Saturday, expressed “deep sorrow” and pledged there would be an independent investigation.
The southern Chinese city promotes its public transport system as one of the best infrastructures in the world but fatal accidents do occasionally happen.
Hong Kong’s worst road traffic accident occurred in 2003 when a double-decker bus collided with a truck and plunged from a bridge, killing 21 people.
In 2008, 18 people were killed in another bus crash.
Fourteen people were injured last April when a double-decker tram tipped over, with a 23-year-old driver later arrested for dangerous driving causing harm to others.
The safety of Hong Kong’s notoriously crowded waterways has also remained under scrutiny since 39 people were killed when a high-speed ferry and a pleasure boat crashed in 2012.