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Driver in tour bus fire found culpable; case closed

2016/09/10 19:12:14

Taipei, Sept. 10 (CNA) Taoyuan prosecutors said Saturday they have determined that the death of all 26 people on board a tour bus in July was caused by the driver, who was found to have deliberately set fire to the vehicle, and they are now closing the case since the driver also died in the incident.

No posthumous charges will be filed against the 53-year-old driver Su Ming-cheng (蘇明成), prosecutors said.

Based on analysis of the evidence, they said, it was found that Su planned an act of self-immolation due to family pressure and because he had been sentenced to prison in a sexual assault case.

Prosecutors said Su deliberately poured gasoline on the bus then set it on fire, killing himself and the 25 other people on board.

A forensic report confirmed that the fire started at the driver's seat and the possibility of an electrical fire caused by a short circuit was ruled out as there was no evidence to support that theory, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Su purchased the gasoline at a petrol station in Chiayi City on the fourth day of the eight-day tour and later filled several plastic containers with the gasoline at hotel in Kaohsiung.

Before setting the tour bus on fire on the last day of the tour, Su consumed a large amount of alcohol, apparently to embolden himself, prosecutors said.

An autopsy of Su's body showed high levels of alcohol in his blood, urine and stomach, indicating that he was very drunk at the time of the accident. Investigators also found five plastic containers on the bus that tested positive for gasoline content.

It was also discovered that just before the incident, the driver had been complaining to a friend about being sentenced to five years in prison for rape.

Su was driving a tour bus carrying 24 members of a Chinese tour group and a Taiwanese tour guide en route to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport when the bus crashed into a freeway guardrail and burst into flames around 1 p.m. on July 19.

Everyone on board was killed in the fire as the emergency doors reportedly could not be opened.

Su's family has already obtained NT$2 million (US$63,381) in insurance compensation, but is expected to face compensation claims from the insurance company, travel agency, tour bus company and families of the victims.

Meanwhile, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) again expressed her condolences to families of the Chinese victims on her Facebook page Saturday, and promised to provide any necessary assistance to them.

"The Taiwanese people's empathy should be manifested without reserve at this time," she wrote.

(By Christie Chen and Bian Chin-feng)