Investigation into the tour bus fire that killed 26 people earlier this month, including 24 mainland Chinese tourists, continues to yield significant findings. A high blood alcohol level has been detected in the dead body of the driver and the discovery of some unusual gasoline storage methods inside the vehicle has led to suspicion that the fire might not have been an accident after all.
Preliminary investigations on last Tuesday’s tragic fire had previously pointed out that the bus’s emergency exit might have failed to open because of anti-theft modifications, and suspected that electric circuit overload might have caused the fire.
Now, the autopsy report indicates that the 53-year-old driver, a Taiwanse native surnamed Su, had an alcohol concentration of 215mg/dL in his blood, which would have given a breath analyzer measurement of 1.075 milligrams per liter. To put that into perspective, ETtoday says that it is the equivalent of consuming three liters of beer, the effects of which would include slurred speech, impaired sensory functions, and disorientation. In Taiwan, the legal limit is 0.15 mg/L, and a reading of 0.25 mg/L is grounds for prosecution.
Bottles containing gasoline were also found on the vehicle — two already burnt up in the driver’s compartment, and three unscorched in the luggage compartment. As to why gasoline was brought onto a vehicle that runs on diesel fuel, investigators said that the reason is uncertain, but did not rule out the possibility of arson and suicide, ETtoday reports.
Su’s family has come to his defense, telling reporters that he could not have attempted suicide as he had three children at home and was about to change his job. A spokesperson for the bus company is also quoted as saying at Su’s funeral that no colleague has ever seen him touch alcohol.
The majority of Taiwanese netizens are skeptical of the investigators’ findings. Many find it hard to believe that the driver could have drank so much alcohol without the tour guide and the passengers noticing. Here are some of the comments under Apple Daily’s report.
“How could anyone possibly miss the smell of alcohol at 1.075?” asked 王藏佑.
“How convenient it is that a dead man can’t defend himself against accusations,” wrote 馬珮琦.
“Blame everything on drunk driving so the insurance company doesn’t have to cover this,” commented Speed Yang.
“Don’t sidetrack us. What about the lock on the emergency exit and the modifications on the bus? Do you think the people are stupid?” wrote Jung-Fang Hsieh.
Whereas on Weibo, Chinese netizens apparently have less of a problem buying into the story, though some are still doubtful.
“You’re not going to blame it all on this dead driver who can’t talk back, are you? Don’t think we’re all gullible fools who’ll fall for your moves,” wrote mungseol.
By Victor Fung
[Images via CNA and Apple Daily]