Beijing concerned about Chinese tour group accident in southern Taiwan

Taipei-- The Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) under China's State Council expressed concerns Saturday over a tour bus accident in southern Taiwan's Kaohsiung City, which injured 21 of the 26 Chinese nationals on board.

Both the TAO and semi-official Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) are concerned about the accident and are seeking further information from the relevant Taiwan authorities, TAO spokesman An Fengshan (???) said.

ARATS was informed by its Taiwan counterpart, the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), about the accident that took place around 10 a.m.

The bus was carrying 28 people -- a Taiwanese driver and tour guide, a Chinese tour manager and 25 tourists from southeastern China's Zhejiang Province � when it struck a railway underpass, smashing its top.

No one on board sustained life-threating injuries but the tour manager was showing symptoms of concussion and two of the passengers required hospital treatment, the local fire department said.

The three people, one of whom was still in hospital, were all seated in the upper front rows of the bus when the accident occurred and bus got stuck in the underpass, the fire department said.

It also said seven of the injured passengers were children, all of whom sustained minor injuries.

Initial investigations ruled out drunk driving but found that the driver may have been unfamiliar with the underpass and may not have been paying enough attention.

The driver, a Kaohsiung resident with three years driving experience, said he was not aware that the underpass had a height limit of 2.8 meters, less than the height of the bus, because he had never traveled on that road before and was distracted by discussions with the tour guide at time of the accident, according to police.

The 43-year-old driver, who was uninjured, said he was neither drunk nor fatigued.

The six-day trip, which began Feb. 1, will continue with a new bus and driver, according to the agency that arranged the tour.

The accident occurred a few months after one of Taiwan's most serious accidents involving Chinese visitors, when a bus carrying 24 members of a Chinese tour group and a Taiwanese tour guide crashed into a freeway guardrail and burst into flames en route to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.

Everyone on board, including the driver, was killed in the July 19 accident as the emergency doors could not be opened.

Prosecutors later concluded that the driver Su Ming-cheng, who had immigrated from China, had deliberately set fire to the vehicle because he was upset over family issues and that fact that he had been sentenced to prison in a sexual assault case.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel