Taipei, July 20 (CNA) The possibility of an electrical short circuit cannot be ruled out in a deadly fire that engulfed a tour bus, killing all 26 people aboard, including 24 Chinese tourists, experts probing the cause of the fire said Wednesday.
The experts noted that a fuse box at the front of the bus had melted, pointing to the possibility of a power overload leading to an electrical short circuit.
The experts targeted the front area of the bus as a possible starting point for the fire, and were continuing their assessment, checking the driver's door and various electrical appliances such as a drinking fountain at the front, a refrigerator underneath the aisle, and the main fuse box behind the driver's seat.
They also compared the bus with another of the same type, particularly two transformers situated underneath the driver's seat.
They found very serious carbonization on one fuse, and suspected that the electrical circuit might have been overloaded.
However, they said that as there is supposed to be an automatic breaker warning mechanism in the case of an overload, they will have to examine the cause further.
Taiwanese driver Su Ming-cheng (蘇明成) and a Taiwanese tour guide also perished in the tragedy.
An autopsy on Su was performed Wednesday in an effort to help shed light on the cause of the accident.
It was initially ruled that Su fell into coma after being overcome by carbon monoxide and then burned to death.
The pathologist initially ruled that the accident was not caused by Su's physical or mental condition, but said that the exact cause will still require further assessment.
Transportation Minister Ho Chen Tan (賀陳旦) said Wednesday that the worst accident involving Chinese tourists in Taiwan is a painful lesson and he announced that his ministry will immediately engage in an overhaul of the tour bus industry.
He said he will immediately reform the management of tour bus operators, with the aim of letting the public know that "it is safe to travel in Taiwan."
Ho Chen said that the equipment, materials and safety levels of the 17,000 tour buses currently operating will also undergo immediate checks.
The Chinese tour group was from Liaoning Province and comprised 23 tourists, including three children, and a Chinese guide.
It arrived in Taiwan July 12 for an eight-day tour and was heading to the airport on its final day in Taiwan to catch a 4:30 p.m. flight back to Dalian.
Surveillance cameras show that at the 4.2-kilometer mark of the freeway on the westbound lane heading toward Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, the vehicle started to belch smoke, hit an inside lane guardrail at the 3-km mark, then bounced into an outer lane guardrail at the 2.9-km mark, where it finally came to a halt at around 1 p.m
The tragedy took place just a few minutes before the group arrived at the airport.
(By Lien Chin-feng, Liao Jen-kai, Wang Shu-fen and Lilian Wu)ENDITEM/J