Driver's health at centre of debate after fatal Taiwan bus crash

The family of Kang Yu-hsun, a Taiwanese driver who was killed along with 32 tourists in a bus crash on Monday, yesterday condemned a travel agency for overworking him.

The travel agency dismissed the accusations, claiming that Kang had received sufficient rest before the fatal trip.

Kang had been the driver during a one-day cherry blossom sightseeing tour organised by Tieh Lien Hua Travels to Wuling Farm in Greater Taichung.

On the return trip, his bus overturned while banking left on an exit ramp off the side of another exit ramp connecting National Freeway No. 5 to southbound lanes of National Freeway No. 3. The crash injured 11 and killed 33 including the driver.

Preliminary investigations showed that the bus was going at 60 kph when the speed limit was 40 kph and indicated that the accident was likely caused by driver fatigue.

On Tuesday, Tieh Lien Hua Travels said it was technically not Kang's employer, providing papers to show that the driver had been under the employ of Yu Li Express.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications revoked the business license of Yu Li Express on Tuesday, and followed up with an order to Tieh Lien Hua Travels demanding that the agency cease all operations by Tuesday evening until further notice.

Hotly Contested Fatigue Amid reports that Kang's fatigue was the most likely cause of the accident, Tieh Lien Hua Travels said Kang had received "sufficient rest" of two days before embarking on the trip.

Kang's daughter Kang Yi-jen said the travel agency's claim was false."The company lied!" she said. "How can they say that he had sufficient rest when he had not." Kang Yi-jen claimed that her father had begun working on the eve of the Lunar New Year on Jan. 27 all the way until 8 a.m. of Feb. 10.

Kang also said she remembered her father mentioning the old age of the bus to which he was assigned."My dad made money for them (travel agency). They cannot shift the blame to him!" she said.

The late driver's sister, who asked not to be named, also told reporters that her brother had been overworked.

She said her brother could have refused to drive for the tour, as he had worked on Feb. 11 and Feb. 12, but that he had reportedly agreed to take the job at the request of his boss.

In response to the family's statements, the National Joint Association of Bus for Tourists of Taiwan and the Travel Agent Association of Taiwan both denied that the late driver had been overworked.

The bus association's chairman, Lu Hsiao-ya, said Kang Yi-jen had complained that her father had worked for 16 days straight.

But evidence shows that Kang had not operated buses for more than 10 hours during each trip, he said.

Lu said that even if the driver had worked for 16 days straight, he had not worked non-stop since he would have had breaks during the day, such as when the tour group was viewing cherry blossoms.

Travel Agent Association of Taiwan spokesman Ringo Lee said that based the association's understanding, Kang had a two-day holiday before the tour, as well as breaks during the trip itself.

Lee also rebutted the claim that Kang's bus had been "old," saying the association considered it to be in good condition.