Coach driver in HK crash that claimed five lives had been suspended for accident earlier this year

01-Dec-2018 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:14 AM Print This Post

The driver involved in a fatal coach crash in Hong Kong had been suspended for careless driving following an accident earlier this year, his employer revealed on Friday.

The previous incident took place on the Lantau Link in February, when Fok Chi-sum, 62, was driving airport staff to work, Kwoon Chung Bus Group chair Wong Leung-pak told the Post.

“His coach hit the rear of a heavy truck when he was trying to get ahead,” Wong said. “The company considered it a serious accident because a number of passengers were hurt.”

Fok and his 15 passengers nine men and six women were hurt and taken to Princess Margaret Hospital and North Lantau Hospital for treatment. The truck driver, 45, was unhurt.

After the collision, which happened shortly after 5am, the coach ran out of control and crashed into a barrier and a concrete embankment. Fok was trapped and had to be freed by emergency personnel. He passed a breathalyser test.

Fok was suspended for a few weeks to receive training provided by the company.

The information on the driver’s work record was revealed on Friday after Fok’s coach struck a stationary taxi in Tsing Yi while taking workers to the airport. Five people, including the taxi driver, were killed, and 32 injured.

Police said they were looking into whether the driver had been tired or overworked, as he had been on 12-hour shifts for several days. The accident happened just before 5am.

Speaking after visiting the driver at Prince Margaret Hospital at noon on Friday, Wong said this was the most serious accident in Kwoon Chung’s history, but added that he did not think Fok had been driving while fatigued.

Wong said: “According to our records, the driver had his last day off on Tuesday and has had a total of eight days off so far in November.”

“I don’t think he was too tired,” he added, noting that Fok had not reported any health issues to the company.

Wong said a 12-hour shift was the norm for drivers working for Kwoon Chung.

“For drivers who are not operating shuttles, the actual driving time is usually six to seven hours in one shift,” he said, adding that drivers could rest during non-driving hours.

We will have to get the black box and wait for further investigation by police to find out what caused the accident

Wong Leung-pak, Kwoon Chung Bus Group chair

“Non-franchised buses are different. We have to take care of daily commuters and suit their time,” Wong said when asked if 12 hours was too long for one shift.

According to the company’s last available tracking data, the bus had been travelling faster than 70km/h at the time of the crash.

“Our GPS showed that the vehicle stopped at 4.51am,” he said.

“The bus will be sent to the vehicle examination centre in Siu Ho Wan. We will have to get the black box and wait for further investigation by police to find out what caused the accident,” Wong said.

The bus was registered in 2011 and had its last major check in February.

In a statement issued at noon on Friday, the Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union condemned Wong for “pushing all the liability to the driver”. Two of the deceased were employees of Cathay Pacific Group subsidiaries. Another 18 staff were injured and sent to hospital after the crash.

“What happened this morning is not an isolated incident,” the union said. “We have found in previous reports that since 2004, Kwoon Chung has been involved in three deadly road accidents, and all the accidents took place on buses transporting airport staff on overnight shifts.”

The union urged Kwoon Chung’s management to stop passing the buck and to review the issue of drivers working long hours.

“We will ask Cathay’s management to review if Kwoon Chung’s service is sufficiently safe. If it is found below standards, we hope Cathay can review its contract with Kwoon Chung,” the statement said.

Wong said Kwoon Chung operated more than 200 routes around the clock for people working at the airport.

At 3pm, a government spokeswoman said five victims four men and one woman remained in hospital while 27 others had been discharged after treatment.

Two men were in critical and stable condition respectively at Princess Margaret Hospital. Another man was in stable condition at Yan Chai Hospital while a man and a woman were in stable condition at Queen Elisabeth Hospital.

Ground handling company Jardine Aviation Services said several of its employees were involved in the accident and were sent to hospital.

“We contacted them right after the accident to provide assistance. They have all been discharged from hospital now,” its spokesman said. “We would like to convey our deepest sympathy to all the injured and will provide necessary support and assistance to affected colleagues.”

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said she was saddened by the tragic incident and expressed her deepest condolences to the families of the deceased.

“I think it is too early to draw a conclusion on this very tragic incident,” she said.

“This is why it is not appropriate for the government to suggest what sort of remedial measures we should take,” Lam added.

She pledged that the government would make improvements and enhance its monitoring work if necessary.

Members of the public who are emotionally affected by the accident or in need of assistance may call the Social Welfare Department’s 24-hour hotline at 2343 2255.


Category: Hong Kong

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