Low pay a possible factor in bus tragedy

Low pay a possible factor in bus tragedy
Relatives of Madam Hamimah Mammu, who died in the crash, praying after her burial on Sunday at Choa Chu Kang Muslim Cemetery. The bus driver reportedly had just three hours' rest before he set off that night.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

As families on both sides of the Causeway mourn the loss of their loved ones in the Christmas Eve bus crash near Muar that killed 14 people, the commission-based pay structure and low basic pay of bus drivers in Malaysia have emerged as possible contributing factors to the disaster.

The bus, operated by Malaysian company Goldstar Express, was travelling from Johor Baru to Kuala Lumpur in the early hours of the morning when it suddenly veered off the North-South Expressway and plunged several metres down a slope at high speed.

Among the dead were three Singaporean women, who were buried on Sunday at Choa Chu Kang Muslim Cemetery.

Malaysian passenger Cyril Joseph, 33, who suffered fractures and neck and head injuries, told Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao that the bus was supposed to depart at 1am but arrived only at 1.45am.

He took the seat right behind driver Zakeer Zubir. He added that Mr Zakeer might have been speeding to make up time - he did not stop even in Yong Peng, a popular rest point.

14 on KL-Johor bus die in Christmas Eve crash

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    Burial of Nur Hazimah Binte Mustafa, 21, together with her mother Faridah Binte Tamron (not in picture), 63.

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    More than 100 relatives of three Singaporean women who died gathered at the Choa Chu Kang Muslim cemetery.

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    About 70 of their relatives, including Madam Faridah's son and another daughter, gathered under a scorching sun at around 1pm.

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    Top to bottom: Hamimah Binte Mammu, Faridah Binte Tamron, Nur Hazimah Binte Mustafa.

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    Sons and relatives of Mdm Hamimah Binte Mammu praying after burial.

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    Sons and relatives of Mdm Hamimah Binte Mammu praying after burial.

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    Three schoolmates of Nur Hazimah Binte Mustafa who were there to pray for their departed friend.

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    13 people including the bus driver were killed and 17 others injured when the express bus they were travelling in skidded and plunged off a 6.09m cliff in Muar, Johor on Dec 24, 2016.

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    Another victim was pronounced dead while receiving treatment at Sultanah Fatimah Specialist Hospital (HPSF) in Muar.

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    The incident took place at Kampung Jayo, Jalan Kangkar-Senangah, Pagoh near Muar at around 4am.

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    Johor Fire and Rescue Department deputy director Mohd Yusof Mohd Gunnos said the bus was heading to Kuala Lumpur from Johor Baru.

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    He said 25 firemen from the Muar, Bukit Gambit and Yong Peng stations were deployed to the location after receiving the distress call at around 4am.

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    Mohd Yusof said initial investigation showed that the road surface was in good condition and it was not raining when the incident happened.

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    Family members of the victims at the Forensic Unit of Sultanah Fatimah Specialist Hospital in Muar.

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    Family members of the bus accident victims waiting outside the ward of Sultanah Fatimah Specialist hospital in Muar at 8.51pm on Dec 24 2016.

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    The list of the dead victims at the Forensic Unit of Sultanah Fatimah Specialist hospital in Muar.

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    The list of the dead victims at the Forensic Unit of Sultanah Fatimah Specialist hospital in Muar.

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    The bodies of the bus driver and his child being loaded into the hearse.

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    The bodies of the bus driver and his child being loaded into the hearse.

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    Businessman Yusof Sabda, 54, cousin of Singaporean victim Ms Hamimah Mammu.

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    Mr Steven Chong, 52, a representative of the Goldstar Exprese bus company. He said his company would help the families with the costs of bringing back the body, as well as insurance claims, but could not yet confirm whether it would be providing any other compensation to the families.

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    Body of Ms Au Poi Kiew being loaded onto the hearse.

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    Relatives of Ms Au Poi Kiew loading her body onto the hearse.

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    Muhd Haikal Bin Syed, (right, walking out) 23, NSF, and Muhd Shamir Bin Syed, (wiping eye) 21, ITE student, both sons of Ms Hamimah Mammu after looking at the body of their mother.

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    Mr Yusof, cousin of Ms Hamimah Mammu, waving at the hearse after the body of Ms Hamimah was loaded onto it.

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    Relatives of Ms Hamimah Mammu hugging after the body was loaded onto the hearse.

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    Entrance of Sultanah Fatimah Specialist Hospital in Muar.

Read also: MFA in touch with Singaporeans affected by KL-Johor bus crash

The speed was making the bus vibrate so hard that Mr Joseph did not dare to sleep. The last thing he remembered was the bus "flying up".

Malaysia's Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) has suspended the licence of Goldstar Express while multi-agency investigations are conducted, it said on the day of the accident.

Malaysian daily The Star reported yesterday that as drivers' basic pay is low and more trips mean more commission, drivers try to get more trips under their belts.

Mr Zakeer had reportedly driven nine hours from Penang to Johor Baru and had had only three hours' rest before setting off again, reported The New Paper.

He had asked his wife to accompany him, with his nine-month-old baby. His wife survived but Mr Zakeer and his daughter died.

Lianhe Wanbao reported that the company was served with 43 speeding tickets in the last three years, including 13 so far this year.

Read also: Johor bus crash: Bus operator's licence suspended

Mr Zakeer, who had been with the company for a month, did not have a record of speeding.

SPAD chairman Syed Hamid Albar told The Star that the situation could be improved with measures such as more drivers and higher fares to encourage bus operators to increase the pay of drivers.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that five Singaporeans were injured, not six as previously reported.

Read also: Johor bus crash: Driver only had 3 hours rest


This article was first published on Dec 27, 2016.
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