TAPAH, Malaysia - It was to be an enjoyable one-day trip to Genting Highlands for a group of mostly senior citizens. But things turned horribly tragic two hours into their bus journey from the fishing village of Kuala Kurau, about 45km north-west of Taiping.
Seven of them and their driver, 40-year-old bus driver M. Jayagunasgaran, died after the bus hit a lorry tyre that was left on the fast lane of the North-South Expressway at KM326.3 at about 1am yesterday.
Tapah police chief Supt Som Sak Din Keliaw said Jayagunasgaran was believed to have lost control of the bus when trying to avoid the tyre, causing the vehicle to swerve to the left and collide with a stationary car.
"Both vehicles further skidded to the left and the bus overturned before landing in a ditch.
"The bus then caught fire and burst into flames, killing seven victims at the scene," he said, adding that the bus was 80 per cent destroyed in the fire.
Those who died at the scene were Lim Soo Lan, 59, Tan Ah Ba, 65, Tan Ah Ban@Tan Chan Ming, 69, Aw Ah Poh, 56, Tan Ah Baa, 64, Ong Ah Yook, 58, and Sin Ah Guat, 54. Jayagunasgaran, who was flung out of the bus due to the impact of the crash, died from multiple injuries, including a broken rib cage, hours after being rushed to the Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital in Ipoh.
"Twenty-one passengers, including the tour guide, suffered injuries while two others escaped unhurt," said Supt Som Sak, adding that the group was from Kuala Kurau and Kuala Gula in the Kerian district.
It is believed that the dead were burned beyond recognition although family members were able to identify their loved ones from clothing and jewellery.
The atmosphere outside the Tapah Hospital mortuary was solemn as relatives waited for the bodies of the six to be released.
Looking somewhat stunned by the events that had taken place in the early morning, they sat around and stared into empty space, speaking to each other only occasionally.
The last of the bodies was released at about 3.30pm.
State Health Committee chairman Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon, who visited the victims' families at the mortuary earlier, told reporters that the majority of the passengers suffered minor injuries.
"Only six suffered more extensive injuries such as fractures and cerebral concussion.
"They are being warded at the Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital as well as several private hospitals in Ipoh," said the Chenderiang assemblyman.
Besides offering words of sympathy, Dr Mah, who was accompanied by fellow state executive councillor Datuk Zainol Fadzi Paharudin, also announced RM2,000 (S$743.62) aid from the state for each of the deceased's families.