Thursday, 23 December 2010

Malaysia's worst crash of the decade: The bus was licensed for 19 seats but capacity increased to 40

The aftermath of the horrific bus accident at the Simpang Pulai - Cameron Highland highway which took away 27  innocent lives:

So, so very sad: Aummarine Kamolkunpipat, the inconsolable husband of Piyanun Klingchuay who was one of the 25 Thai passengers killed in the Camerons bus crash, cries over her coffin as it leaves the forensic department of Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun in Ipoh (NST)

The lucky ones who lived to tell the story: Thai survivors of the Cameron Highlands bus crash, Suchanchira Chaiaueai, 41(top left) and Rungnapa Klungsuwan,53 (top right), Pramualrat Phimpahu, 45 (bottom pictures) leaving the Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun in Ipoh this morning for home.(NST)

There is another piece of report that really got me angry and I am sure the families of the victims will also:

Thursday December 23, 2010
Permit allows for 19 seats, but capacity increased to 40

PETALING JAYA: The high-decked bus involved in the Cameron Highlands tragedy was modified to double its seating capacity.

The bus had 19 seats but its capacity was increased to 40, according to a source close to a team set up in the aftermath of the crash to determine what had caused it.

The team comprises several agencies including Miros, Puspakom, police and the Road Transport Department (JPJ). This is what has been established by the team to date – the upper deck had been modified and had about 30 seats while the lower deck, which was to have only a lounge, had several more seats.

It is understood that the team checked the wreckage on Tuesday night and noticed the modifications. “We still have to determine the exact number of extra seats added in the upper and lower decks,” the source said. The source said the changes were a violation of the permit issued for the vehicle.

The permit issued by the JPJ states that the vehicle should only have 19 seats.

“If the bus operator wants to modify the structure or put additional seats in the bus, it should submit a new structure plan of the bus to the JPJ for approval,” the source said. The source said checks showed that the bus was inspected regularly by Puspakom, since it was registered in 2007.

When Puspakom inspects a commercial vehicle, the first thing checked is the vehicle’s chassis number. The source said Puspakom would also check the vehicle’s undercarriage including its brake system, axles and flooring. The source said the badly damaged front axle of the ill-fated bus was very likely due to instability brought about by passenger overloading.

The source noted that generally high-decked buses were stable on flat and straight roads.

Read the rest here.

Having read the above newspaper report, I believed that with the modification where 30 seats were placed at the upper deck of the ill fated double decker, the CG or the centre of gravity of the bus which should have been low towards ground has been raised up higher away from the ground. This will cause serious instability, more so when the double decker travel round a bend or a corner. [note: To topple over, any object has to reach a position where its centre of gravity is moved to a position where the forces towards toppling are greater than those towards falling back. The angle depends on: the shape of the object; the distribution of mass within it; and the direction and strength on any other forces, including forward velocity and centrifugal forces, acting upon it. So, if the bus was full of heavy people on the upper deck, empty on the lower deck, negotiating a sharp corner with severe negative camber, and travelling even quite slowly, it could topple over.]

This then begs the question that if the modification to the ill fated double decker was illegal then:

  1. Why was it not detected by the yearly JPJ mandatory check since 2007?
  2. Is it a question of negligent or close one eye, I scratch your back you scratch mine situation.   (SPRM should come in the independent panel).
  3. JPJ checks as far as I know are very thorough, this incident showed that the procedures will have to be tightened and JPJ checks for passenger buses should be done every six months.
The ill fated double decker bus owner(s) even the Government better brace themselves, the latest news if proved correct, could be used to file a civil suit against those identified as responsible for the worst bus crash in Malaysia in this decade. 

If they are not lucky, the owner could even even be charged by the AG for manslaughter for ordering the modification of their bus without approval causing the bus to be so unstable and uncontrollable that it crashed .... Just a thought.

Update: A bit of news yesterday:

Apparently an independent panel will be set up to investigate the bus crash but depending on what paper you read, Utusan said that the independent panel will study not only the bus crash at Cameron Highlands but also to study the overall structure and operations of commercial buses in the country which is great and a huge leap forward, read Utusan here. The NST did not mention about the independent panel doing anything else but study the bus crash, interestingly MOT Minister Kong Cho Ha said its not a double decker bus but is actually a "high deck" bus. The former is 4.2 high while the later is 4.0m high, I say ya right minister as if a 0.2m or 8 inches difference is a BIG difference in height, try telling that to the families of the  victims who died lah.

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