Freeway pile-up triggers fire, killing two, injuring nine
Taipei, Jan. 22 (CNA) A multiple car collision on Freeway No. 1 in Miaoli County early Sunday morning triggered a fire and left two people dead and nine injured, according to the county's Fire Bureau.
The bureau said it received a report at around 5 a.m. of a pile-up involving a tour bus and five other vehicles at the 128-kilometer mark on the northbound lanes of Freeway No. 1, between the Gongguan and Touwu exits.
After receiving the report, the bureau immediately sent a rescue team to the scene, it said.
The fire engulfed the tour bus from Ubus company and the passenger car the tour bus crashed into from behind. The tour bus' 48-year-old male driver and a 62-year-old female passenger in the vehicle hit by the bus died in the fire.
The bus and passenger car were completely destroyed by the fire but the bus' 21 passengers and the driver of the burned passenger car were able to get out of the vehicles in time and survived, the bureau said.
The driver of the burned passenger car told CNA that he had to brake suddenly because another car was stopped in the same lane ahead of him with its hazard lights flashing.
He was then thinking about putting the car in reverse when his female passenger yelled "there's a vehicle behind us," and the Ubus tour bus rammed into his car, triggering a fire, he said.
While the driver was able to get out of the car in a panic, his female friend could not get out in time and died in the fire, he said.
According to the bureau, the tour bus involved in the accident was taking 21 passengers to Taoyuan International Airport.
One of the passengers on the tour bus said there was thick fog on the freeway that allegedly led a vehicle to crash into the guardrail, precipitating the pile-up.
A driver of one of the other cars involved in the accident said cars were piled up all over and when he heard there were still people stuck in the vehicles engulfed in fire, he wanted to help them but it was too late.
Chang Ming-kuang (張明光), section head of the National Highway Bureau, said the bureau's preliminary findings into the crash indicated that the 46-year-old female driver of the first car, surnamed Chen (陳), tested above the limit for alcohol in her blood.
She had a blood alcohol level of 0.34 milligrams per liter (mg/l), higher than the legal limit of 0.25mg.
As for how the pile-up occurred, Chang said the tour bus caused the collision from behind, but that further investigation was needed to get a clear picture of what happened.
Police said that among the nine injured people, one of them was a woman who was two-months pregnant and suffered a broken pelvis and head wound.
The crash caused a traffic jam on the northbound Miaoli section of the freeway amid heavy traffic Sunday morning, the first day of the Year of the Rabbit, when many cars hit the road for the Lunar New Year holiday.
According to the bureau, the congestion was cleared at around 8:21 a.m.
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