Sat, 25 Jan 2003

Burning bus causes havoc, kills 18

Nana Rukmana and Agus Maryono, The Jakarta Post, Slawi, Central Java

At least 18 people were killed on Thursday night when a Sinar Jaya bus traveling to Jakarta crashed into a number of oil drums, exploded in flames and turned into a speeding death trap for passengers and locals along a section of road in the town of Slawi, Central Java.

The bus rammed into the side of a bridge and then into the oil drums, causing it to catch fire and explode. The burning bus sped on and crashed into four houses before rolling to a fiery halt.

There were an estimated 24 passengers on the bus heading to Jakarta from Wonosobo, Central Java.

Fifteen people died inside the burning bus. Another person died at the hospital, while nine others sustained serious burns. Two locals also were killed in the accident.

Twelve of the deceased have so far been identified, including 10 bus passengers. They are: Sayid Adi, 34; Sugeng Riyanto (35); Supriyatiningsih; Riki Fajar (6); Rizka (4); Triyadi bin Kusmen (41); Hestri Lusiani (32); Andina Fitriayani; Andini Dewi; and Arifin (40).

The two locals who died in the accident were identified as Yudi (20) and Su'udi (31), both residents of Lebaksiu in Tegal district.

All of those injured in the accident were taken to Dr. Soesilo General Hospital in Slawi.

The head of the Tegal Police traffic division, Adj. Comr. Tumilang, said that at the time of the accident the bus was being driven by a man identified as Roni, the bus mechanic, who was spelling driver Fachrur Rozi.

According to a passenger, Andrian, Roni took over the wheel after Fachrur complained of being tired.

Witnesses said the bus was driving at high speeds at the time of the accident. Roni apparently lost control of the vehicle and rammed the left side of the bus into a bridge.

The bus made a sharp right turn then crashed into a set of oil drums, caught fire and exploded. The burning bus then crashed into four parked motorbikes and four houses before coming to a stop.

Flames from the bus set the motorbikes and houses on fire, completely destroying them. It took the local fire department two hours to extinguish the flames.

Roni, who escaped injury, has been placed in police custody, while Fachrur is being treated at the hospital for serious burns.

"For the time being we have named only one suspect, Roni. But we will also question the main bus driver pending his recovery," Tegal Police chief Adj. Snr. Cmr. Moch. Iriawan said.

The chief also said he would recommend a review of the operation permit of the bus's owner, PO Bus Sinar Jaya, if the police found it shared responsibility for the accident.