'It was like being in a washing machine' (Malay Mail)
Passenger of express bus recalls fateful switching of seats
by Muzliza Mustafa, G. Prakash, Alfian Zohri Mohd Tahir, Thasha Jayamanogaran and Kevin Ong
Monday, October 11
SEREMBAN: The final moments inside the runaway express bus that crashed into four vehicles in the opposite direction along the North-South expressway near here — leaving 12 people dead — were dramatic and horrifying for the 50-odd passengers.
Nur Syakila Senin, 23, this morning recalled the chilling experience when the doomed bus that was flying at breakneck speed on the fast lane became a mangled horror after the crash.
Many of the passengers were trapped inside the ill-fated Ekspres Delima WQM 7333 as fears grew the bus might catch fire at KM223 of the expressway.
Others were ejected from their seats and flung onto the road. At least one passenger was decapitated.
Nur Syakila, a Damansara law firm employee, described her experience as “death defying moment”. She suffered a fractured neck and breathing difficulties and is being treated at the Tuanku Ja’afar Hospital here where 12 other passengers have also been warded with various injuries.
Nur Syakila said: “It felt like I was in a washing machine, we were just hitting each other and the impact flung us against the seats and the roof of the bus.”
Nur Syakila, who is to get married on Dec 25, took a seat three rows behind the bus driver when she boarded it in Malacca. She had spent the weekend with her family in Merlimau.
Although she was first seated by the window, she suddenly felt uncomfortable and decided to swap places with another woman passenger. “I had this bad feeling from the start although I am used to travelling with Delima Express which I regularly take,” said Nur Syakila.
She alleged that the bus driver was driving recklessly the whole time they were travelling.
“Suddenly the bus started moving towards the opposite direction and the next thing it felt like as if the bus was flying,” she said.
She said the passengers started screaming and it got worse when the driver lost control of his vehicle and rammed through the guardrail before ploughing into a bus, a van and two cars in the opposite direction.
The impact caused the express bus to flip onto its side and the first thing Nur Syakila did was to reach for her cell phone and contact her parents.
“All I was thinking about was my family members," she said, adding that she was not aware the passenger next to her died on the spot.
“I thought she was alive and tried to carry her up when rescuers came, but she was not responding. I was shocked as I had switched places with her earlier. It could have been me who was killed.”
She said her heart went out to the families of those killed.
Another survivor, University Malaya student Nur Najlaa Aqilah Mohd Ghazali, 19, was on her way back to her university when the tragedy occurred.
The engineering student is traumatised that the bones on her left wrist were totally crushed in the incident.
A close family member said Najlaa was with a friend who sustained bodily injuries.
“It was a short break for her. She decided to come home and spend some time with her family,” he said.
Checks on driver's records
SEREMBAN: Negri Sembilan traffic police are investigating whether the driver of the ill-fated Ekspres Delima bus had traffic violations.
State traffic police chief Superintendent Junaidi Bujang, said checks would determine if he had been issued summonses for speeding or other offences.
A post-mortem would also establish if he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The driver, Ramachandra Ramasamy, 52, from Klebang, Malacca, was among 12 people killed in the horror crash at Km223 North-South Expressway near here yesterday.
Of the 15 dead, 11 were believed to be from the express bus, including the driver. One of them was decapitated.
Till Press time, there was no further casualty and the 45 injured are being treated at hospitals here and in Malacca for various injuries. Some are in critical condition.
Junaidi said a Japanese tourist was among those injured. He sustained minor injuries and has been discharged from hospital.
The accident occurred when the north-bound express bus crashed through the guardrail and ploughed into four vehicles heading in the opposition direction near Simpang Ampat about 7pm. The impact caused the express bus to flip onto its side.
The express bus had left Malacca about 45 minutes before the accident and was on its way to Kuala Lumpur.
Meanwhile, James Lee, Puspakom business development and communications head, told The Malay Mail the ill-fated bus was due for an inspection later this month.
The bus was cleared after a routine inspection in May, he said.
Lee said Puspakom would be working with the Road Transport Department (RTD), Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros) and the traffic police on this case.
The Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB) was scheduled to brief the media on the accident in the afternoon.
PLUS Expressways Berhad officials said the traffic jam caused by the accident was cleared by 5am today. The accident had caused a traffic jam stretching more than 25km along the expressway.
Attempts to get comments from the Ekspres Delima were in vain.
Chronology of express bus tragedies since 2006
● July 30, 2006: 11 people killed and 35 injured when a tour bus overturned and crashed into a ditch at KM160.8, North-South Expressway near Jawi, Nibong Tebal, Penang.
● March 2, 2007: Two people killed and 18 hurt when a bus carrying Umno Maran Division members was involved in an accident at KM89.7, North-South Expressway near Gurun, Kedah.
● March 9, 2007: Six people killed and 20 injured when an express bus skidded into a ravine at KM254, North-South Expressway, near Sg Perak rest and recreation area.
● Aug 13, 2007: 20 people killed at KM229, North-South Expressway in Bukit Gantang, Taiping, Perak. This was deemed as the nation's worst express bus crash in recent history.
● Dec 7, 2008: 10 passengers of an express bus, Super Nice Grassland, were killed when their bus skidded and overturned at the KM146.5, North-South Expressway near Pagoh, Johor.
● April 14, 2009: Six people killed, including bus driver in an accident involving a double-decker express bus at KM443, North-South Expressway near Rawang, Selangor.
● Dec 26, 2009: 10 killed and two injured when a double-decker bus, Sani Express, crashed into the road divider (penghalang jalan) at KM272.8, North-South Expressway near the Jelapang Toll Plaza, near Ipoh, Perak.
Will someone REALLY do something now?
Comment by Frankie D'Cruz
REMBAU: Accident is written on most express buses plying our highways.
There is little civic-consciousness among express bus drivers. They are bullies and behave like kings of the road with their powerful European designed buses.
Passengers of the ill-fated Delima Express said the bus meandered dangerously at lightning speed and that the driver seemed to be ahead of all other vehicles.
Despite numerous horrific crashes involving express buses, passengers remain victims of negligence and indifference on the part of commercial vehicle operators.
The strain and sorrow of victims and their families after a fatal bus crash are terrifying, but the public fury and official concern remain only for as long as the spotlight is on.
The rhetoric from the authorities such as “we are giving express bus travel our highest priority” is already flowing.
We will soon know if the driver of the ill-fated Delima Express was a speed fiend and had summonses for speeding.
The autopsy will show if he was drunk or was under the influence of drugs while driving.
We will never know if it was sleep deprivation. Then, we will listen to some yarn from the company about how it values the safety of passengers and that its drivers undergo rigorous safety training.
We would probably get this statement from a road safety expert "it’s high time drastic action is taken to curb the instances of fatal bus crashes and make safety training and defensive driving courses compulsory for bus operators".
Another will hope deplorably that the Simpang Ampat incident would be a lesson to all express bus drivers.
Like, they would ever learn. We wonder about the timing of such statements.
We wonder why passengers in this, and previous, bus crashes were ejected from the vehicle. What happened to making seat-belt use in buses compulsory? We wonder why the authorities refuse the use of alternative materials, such as the wire-rope barrier technology — that cushions a vehicle's impact, and then safely redirects the vehicle — instead of traditional guardrails.
We wonder why the black box ruling went by the wayside even if it records the operating parameters of the bus just before a crash. We wonder what happened to the special unit set up at each bus depot to check on the fitness of every departing vehicle and the driver.
Then, it will all happen again.
Expressing our horror is not good enough
The Star says..
Wednesday October 13, 2010
WE have said it before. And we will say it again. For Malaysians to continue with their lackadaisical attitude towards matters of life and death on our roads is to continue to let more people die in vain.
On the evening of Oct 10, a tragic accident occurred on the North-South Expressway at Simpang Ampat near the Negri Sembilan-Malacca border involving an express bus heading north and five other vehicles coming from the opposite direction.
These are the 12 lives lost, eight of whom are under the age of 25, of which five will never celebrate their 21st birthday.
Remember these names: Muhammad Farizuddin Talib, 19; Azizi Ajis, 20; Norazmi Abdul Karim, 24; Sharene Sofia Fadzry Tan, 18; Nur Shapika Baba, 19; Ng Sok Kuan, 52; Pang Shi Moei, 57; Goo Chuan Heng, 34; and the three from Myanmar, Kam Khaw Tuai, 19, Pau Khan Tual, 21, and Cin Thawn Tuang, 21 and R. Ramachandra, 52. Let us not treat them as mere statistics but as real people with families and friends. And let not the tears of their loved ones be for nothing.
The blame game is being played, and there is a familiar refrain to all the comments made so far. So what are we to do? Let us bear in mind that a skeptical public will not be easily convinced because there is a strong negative perception of how serious we are in addressing this issue.
When initial eye-witness accounts claimed the express bus driver was speeding, the immediate response was: “Did the driver have a record? Was he on drugs? Had he been at the wheel for more than eight hours that day?”
That these questions are even being asked reveals that we are all too familiar with the scenario whereby after an accident, we learn to our horror that the driver had a string of summonses to his name and was not fit to even drive his own car, let alone be entrusted with ferrying so many people from one destination to another.
But in this case, the driver apparently had a clean record. And so the cynic in us asks: “Well, it’s just that he had never been caught before!”
To be fair, let us not be drawn into a debate that is premised more on the emotion of the day rather than what the hard facts will reveal after a proper investigation.
But still, we must pose some serious questions for all parties to address and to take remedial action.
To the bus operators: Are your vehicles in tip-top condition? Are all your drivers in good health and mentally prepared to take the long journeys? Are you paying fair wages and offering good working conditions? Do you limit the number of trips your driver can make per day and the number of days he can drive consecutively?
To the enforcement authorities, in particular, the Road Transport Department (JPJ) and Puspakom: Are you checking that all safety requirements are adhered to? Are you ensuring that all the drivers are certified fit to drive and have undergone the necessary tests? Have all the operators undergone the Safety, Health and Environmental Management (SHE) course?
To the licensing authority, the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board: Are you checking on the records of the operators before renewing their operating permits? Do you ensure that the drivers do not have criminal records or traffic summonses?
To the highway operators: Are there safety issues with regard to the highways you manage? Must killer stretches remain or are there ways to make them safe? What are the conditions of the guardrails that divide the two directions of traffic? What is the quality of your maintenance and upgrading work?
To the lawmakers: Make it mandatory for speed-limiting devices and passenger seat belts to be installed on all express buses. Limit the number of hours a driver can be at the wheel, and for journeys exceeding, say four hours, make it mandatory for a second driver to be on board. Set a minimum wage for the drivers and ensure reasonable working conditions.
Increase the penalties, not only on the drivers, but also on the operators. The onus must be on the operators to maintain a reliable fleet of buses and drivers.
All accidents and infringements must be faithfully tabulated and the operator be stopped from operating when the number of points reaches a certain level. Businesses understand the bottom line so we must have the political will to hit them where it hurts the most.
Read the names again and tell yourself that if the necessary steps are not taken, your loved ones may one day be on such a list.