The driver in the fatal Tai Po double-decker crash on Saturday was previously convicted of careless driving, according to the Kowloon Motor Bus Company (KMB).
19 people were killed and over 60 were injured when the bus overturned on Tai Po Road. On Saturday, Li Chi-wai, police senior superintendent in New Territories North, said they suspected that the bus was exceeding the speed limit and lost control while going down the hill.
The 30-year-old driver was arrested for dangerous driving causing injury and dangerous driving causing death at the scene.
The police are investigating various leads and are not ruling out manslaughter charges, according to Ming Pao.
A conviction of causing death by dangerous driving could lead to up to ten years imprisonment and a fine of HK$50,000, while a manslaughter conviction could lead to life imprisonment.
Speaking at the scene on Saturday night, KMB representatives said that the driver had a good record, and that it was not his first time driving the route.
The driver – Chan Ho-ming – had been employed since 2014, and switched to working for KMB on a part-time basis last year.
The representatives added that Chan had been scheduled to work for four hours that day and there was no evidence that he was overly tired.
Afterwards, a company spokesperson said that he was involved in a traffic accident in 2014 in Kwai Fong. He was convicted of careless driving, fined HK$900 and had points deducted from his record.
According to Apple Daily, a pedestrian and a passenger sustained injuries in the accident, which occurred as he was driving a double-decker bus on route 46X.
Representatives of KMB were present on Sunday morning at a roadside memorial for those who died in the accident.
Speaking to reporters after the event, company chairman Norman Leung said KMB’s legal department will help those affected seek compensation from insurance companies and will dedicate HK$10 million to victims. The company previously said it would give HK$80,000 to each family unconditionally.
But Leung walked away as reporters asked him why the company hired a driver with a previous conviction, and why the company previously said that the driver had a good record.
Mr. Yip, whose uncle died in the accident, criticised KMB for being irresponsible in hiring a driver with a previous conviction: “Since there was a previous case, they should have seriously considered whether to hire him.”
Asked whether he was angry at KMB, he said: “Everyone would be furious, if it was your own family member, the driver makes one turn and breaks up how many families?”
“I hope KMB will be more careful in hiring from now on, and not be so frivolous.”
Unions hit out
Two KMB drivers’ unions have criticised the company for not taking its staff shortage seriously and hiring too many part-time drivers.
A KMB drivers’ union under the pro-democracy Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions marched to KMB headquarters with black armbands in protest. A spokesperson said that full time drivers are required to undergo 18 days of training, including eight days of driving routes, but part-time drivers are only required to undergo two days of route driving.
Another KMB drivers’ union under the pro-establishment Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions said that the company was hiring too many part-time drivers, describing the practice as a “time-bomb.”
In response to reports that the driver in the accident had argued with passengers, the union said that there was a staff shortage, and the company continues to increase route frequency. It asked passengers for their understanding as drivers face increasing pressure to stay on schedule.
Correction 17.35: An early version of this article stated that the bus driver had a previous conviction of dangerous driving, as opposed to careless driving – a different charge. HKFP regrets the error.