Sat, 21 Jun 2003

Bus plunges into river, 11 killed

Agus Maryono, The Jakarta Post, Purbalingga, Central Java

An intercity bus plunged into a river here on Friday, leaving at least 11 passengers dead and eight others injured.

The Tri Kusumo bus bearing license number R 2767 BA was carrying 29 people from Semarang to Purwokerto in Central Java when it crashed in Toyareja village at around 2:30 p.m.

Bus driver, Yusman, 43, said he lost control of the vehicle after it hit a minivan which was coming from the opposite direction just before he was taking a curve over a bride.

A witness said the bus was speeding when it skidded off the road and crashed through railings before plummeting into Klawing River.

It was drizzling when the accident took place, the second such accident with a considerable death toll in two weeks after a bus caught fire in neighboring Central Java town of Brebes killed 11 passengers.

Local residents said the winding road along the route was prone to accidents. Last October a public minibus carrying 40 people hit a tree, killing 10 of its passengers.

Only eight of the casualties in Friday's accident have been identified, including five-year-old Sigit Kurniawan.

All the bodies and those injured were sent to Nirmala Hospital and Immanuel Hospital in Purbalingga.

Yusman, who survived with a minor injury, is now in police custody for investigation purpose.

Purbalingga Police chief Adj. Comr. Iryanto said a preliminary investigation revealed that Yusman was unaware that his bus tires were already worn out but was going too fast despite the wet road.

"The driver should not have been that reckless. He should have reduced speed before passing the bridge. But he was speeding at 70 kilometers per hour," Iryanto said.

"After observation in the field, we could say human error was the cause of the accident."

Local residents gave first aid to the victims and helped medical workers evacuate bodies.

Police sealed off the site of accident and rerouted motorists to alternative routes as workers recovered the bus.

Identified fatalities: 1. Itang Kusmayadi, 27; 2. Eri, 37; 3. Sigit Kurniawan, 5; 4. Sugiarto, 36; 5. Aemanto, 50; 6. Salijo, 51; 7. Marwah, 37; 8. Achmad, 40.