TAIPEI (The China Post/ANN) - In the wake of Taiwan’s most fatal bus crash in 30 years, government officials and lawmakers on Tuesday urged stricter quality control and safety inspections on tour vehicles.
Around 9 p.m. Monday night, a tour bus carrying 44 people attempted to turn right near the Nangang Interchange of National Freeway No. 5 onto National Freeway No. 3.
Traffic surveillance footage showed the bus careening off the highway exit ramp, resulting in a tragic accident that killed 33.
Evidence points to the speeding as a factor leading to the accident, authorities said.
President Tsai Ing-wen visited the Taipei City Mortuary Services Office Second Funeral Parlor on Tuesday, paying respects to the dead.
‘A serious criminal case’
Premier Lin Chuan, when questioned by media during a scheduled visit in Tainan City, said the crash was being viewed by police and prosecution officials as a “serious criminal case.”
The dash-cam on the tour bus has been confiscated by prosecutors, Lin said. Details of the crash must be verified through a probe before he could provide further statements, he said.
Lin addressed the matter of “speculation running rampant” over the accident, saying the Ministry of Justice would be ordered to look into “overtly exaggerated rumors.”
The tourists had been on a one-day cherry blossom tour organized by a local travel agency.
Cabinet spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung said that the travel agency that organized the trip to Wuling Farm in Taichung was not a participant in the government’s new domestic tourism program.
Last year, the government had green-lighted a NT$300 million program to boost the number of domestic tourists, with each domestic tour group to receive as much as NT$45,000 in subsidies.
The Cabinet also said the trip had not been part of any of the government’s tourism programs, including the Taiwan Tourism Bus travel packages or the national travel card program.
As for whether the driver had been overworked as the result of a new workweek law, Hsu said it was too soon to say and that investigations into the accident were still underway.
But Hsu said the cause of the accident was “possibly not” related to the workweek law, as the itinerary had been a one-day tour and not a seven or eight-day event that would have created conflicts with the new workweek law or mandatory two-day holiday.
Transportation Minister Ho Chen Tan said the tour bus operator’s license had been revoked in accordance to the Highway Act due to the severity of the crash.
He said the decision was also made to urge operators to practice stricter self-discipline.
Ho said an initial probe showed that the cause of the crash was tied to the vehicle and the driver, rather than road conditions, but stressed that further investigation must be carried out.
Lawmakers on both sides of the political divide said the government should into reviewing the wage payment system of drivers so they can avoid driving while fatigued.
Lawmakers also said the government should roll out measures to ensure strict and comprehensive safety inspections on tour bus vehicles.
Ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Caucus Whip Ker Chien-ming said the Transportation Ministry should review quality control measures and address the safety problems created when operators purchase old tour buses to save costs.
KMT Caucus Secretary-General Alicia Wang said the ministry must not only look into the vehicle’s age but also evaluate the structure of the buses. More often than not, safety measures are sacrificed for comfort or luxury, Wang said.