Bus driver considered a serious criminal suspect following investigation into fatal crash

Prosecutors applied to the court this morning to keep a bus driver in detention, as they considered him a “serious criminal suspect” for his involvement in a crash that killed 4 and injured 22 people on a freeway in Yunlin County yesterday, Saturday, October 21.

The 63-year-old driver, named Chen, is expected to be formally charged with offenses including professional negligence causing death later today, after a forensic examination of the bodies of the deceased is completed.

Witness testimony, Chen’s statements to police, and video evidence, suggest that Chen was speeding and driving his bus recklessly before the horrific crash in the southbound lanes on the Douliu section of National Highway 3 in Yunlin County at 9:42 am.

Witnesses among the 41 passengers on the bus said that Chen was driving so fast that the bus was shaking. Chen tailgated other vehicles, constantly honked the horn, and weaved in and out of traffic to overtake other vehicles before crashing into a small sedan, crushing it against the outer guardrail, and dragging it for several hundred meters before finally coming to a stop.

Firefighters used hydraulic shears to cut the lifeless bodies of a 52-year-old man, also named Chen, and a 61-year-old female, named Luo, out of the mangled wreck of the silver Toyota Corolla. Chen and Luo were rushed to hospital without vital signs and were declared dead after efforts to resuscitate them failed.

On the bus, two people were also without vital signs. A 12-year-old boy sustained such serious head injury that paramedics did not attempt to resuscitate or send him to hospital. Beside the boy sat his 48-year-old mother, who was rushed to hospital but later declared dead. The two deceased were members of a family of four traveling on one of five tour coaches chartered to carry employees of the Hsinchu-County-headquartered tech company ASYS Corporation, and their families, to an amusement park in Yunlin County for a family day outing.

The Lai family had chosen to occupy the single row of four seats at the rear of the bus so they could sit together. The 12-year-old son sat in the window seat on the right-hand side, while his twin sister sat in the window seat on the left. All four were wearing seatbelts. Mr Lai and his daughter were only slightly injured.

When the driver lost control of the bus, the right-rear side slammed into the soundproofing wall mounted on the outer guardrail, smashing the rear-seat window.

Chen, who suffered a minor head injury in the crash, admitted to police that he was driving “a little too fast,” sometimes exceeding 120 kilometers per hour before hitting the car while he was attempting to overtake a vehicle. After interrogation, Chen was handed over to the Yunlin County District Prosecutor’s Office to be charged for offenses which are expected to include professional negligence causing death, and professional negligence causing injury.

Video footage from traffic surveillance cameras were consistent with Chen’s testimony and witness statements, showing the bus speeding, making improper lane changes, and failing to maintain a safe distance from other vehicles at the time of the crash.

TV news footage showing moment of crash

The Yunlin District Court approved the prosecutor’s request to detain Chen, citing among reasons that Chen had confessed to the crime, had no financial resources to post bail, and facing such serious criminal charges and civil compensation liability, constituted a flight risk.

The Highway Bureau of the Ministry of Transportation and Communication said that Chen had been driving a bus for 10 years, and had been penalized for 10 traffic violations in that time, nine of which were for speeding.

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