On the way back from the one-day trip Monday evening, the bus flipped over the barrier on the right side of a curve on the exit ramp from National Freeway No.5 coming from Yilan County to National Freeway No.3 in Taipei’s Nangang District.
The roof of the bus was ripped off and passengers flew out of the bus, reports said. Out of the 44 passengers, 11 were still being treated in hospital Tuesday. The crash amounted to the most serious road accident in Taiwan for 30 years.
The 33th fatality announced Tuesday was an unnamed man who succumbed to his injuries at the Taipei Municipal Wanfang Hospital.
The ages of the victims ranged from 21 to 68, with most of them in their 50s and 60s.
The precise cause of the accident has not been announced yet, but theories mentioned included speed 20 kilometers per hour over the 60 kph limit and driver fatigue after at least 14 hours at the wheel.
Iris Travel Agency Co., Ltd., which owned the bus, said the driver, a man surnamed Kang who was among the fatalities, had received 24 hours of rest before venturing out on Monday’s trip, but his daughter told the media Tuesday that he had only had one day off over the 16 days since the start of the Lunar New Year holiday.
Kang had been working as a bus driver for more than five years, and each day he left for work between 5 and 6 and the morning and came home between 10 and 11, his daughter said.
Even on his one recent day off, on February 10, he had not returned home until 8 in the morning and gone back out during the afternoon to check his vehicle, according to his daughter. The bus was 19 years old but had passed all safety tests, though some media reports claimed the seats were only fastened by metal wiring. Other buses of the same type were being checked Tuesday.
The morning after the crash, a bus owned by Kuo-Kuang Motor Transportation Company carrying 40 people on a one-day trip to the Wuling Farm area hit the side of the road in a curve in Yilan County’s Datong Township. One of its wheels ended up hanging over a ditch, forcing passengers to leave the vehicle. Nobody was injured in the incident, and a replacement bus was sent to pick up the travelers, reports said.