Thursday, August 22, 2013

At bottom of Genting ravine, lives cut short in their prime

A relative of one of the Genting bus crash victims weeps in anguish over the loss of his loved one. Thirty-seven people died in the tragic accident Wednesday, when an express bus plunged down a 60m ravine near Genting Highlands. A man weeps silently after confirming that a relative was one of the victims of the tragic Genting Highlands bus crash Wednesday.

All Kwan Chin Yii wanted to do was earn some pocket money when she took up a part-time job at the popular mountain resort of Genting Highlands.

She had just finished her shift that Wednesday afternoon.

Meeting up with her boyfriend Sia Chin Shin near her work place, the couple proceeded to take the journey back to Kuala Lumpur together as planned.

They got on an express bus, and that was the last thing they told their families they were going to do. They never made it home.

"His girlfriend asked him to go pick her up from Genting after she was done with work. He never got home.

"We tried calling both their handphones, but we couldn't get through. We were not sure what had happened," said Sia's childhood friend, who only identified himself as Goh.

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Kwan and Sia, both 22, were among 37 people who died in what is being described as the country's worst public transport accident involving an expess bus in recent years.

The bus, which was travelling downhill en route to Kuala Lumpur, is believed to have gone out of control before crashing into a divider and plunging down a 60m ravine at around 3pm yesterday.

It was later learnt that the bus had already been blacklisted by the authorities, though there are conflicting reports as to whether it was barred from use by either the Road Transport Department (RTD) or the police.

The families of both Kwan and Sia, who were second-year computer science course mates at UPM, were too distraught to speak to the media at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital.

Many other families and close friends of the passengers of the fatal bus crash slumped against each other outside the hospital mortuary, their heads bowed in grief and their cheeks stained with tears.

Goh, who spoke on behalf of Sia's family, said they had hoped beyond hope for a miracle to happen when they heard the news.

"We were hoping he was not on the bus... only today we identified his body," he said, fighting back tears.

Also among the dead was the bus driver, 43-year-old Lim Kok Hoe, whose body was among the earliest to be claimed by next-of-kin.

His brother-in-law, 54-year-old Ong Cheng Hoe, said they were not aware of the bus being blacklisted by the authorities, noting that Lim was an experienced and disciplined driver.

"We don't know what condition the bus was in and why it (the accident) happened. Maybe the bus' brakes were condemned (sic)," he said, suggesting the brakes were not in good condition.

At the scene of the accident today , Bentong OCPD Supt Mohd Mansor Mohd Nor described a macabre scene as retrieval operations continued.

"Our personnel found two severed legs which will be sent to the Kuala Lumpur Hospital.

"We are confident that there are no more victims in the bus or in the surrounding area," he told reporters.

Mansor said of the 37 dead only 15 have been identified so far.

"The tragedy is by far the worst in this area so far. If the bus had not got snagged on the trees, it could have easily plunged an additional 100ft down the slope," he said.

He added that the case was being investigated under Section 41(1) of the Road Transport Act 1987 for reckless driving.

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