Sun, 26 Jan 2003

Tegal residents take anger out on passing Sinar Jaya buses

Nana Rukmana, The Jakarta Post, Tegal, Central Java

Police in the Central Java town of Tegal stopped all Sinar Jaya buses from traveling through Slawi district and rerouted them to alternative roads on Saturday for fear of residents seeking revenge for a crash that left 18 people dead on Thursday night.

The police also declared bus driver Fachrur Rozi, 38, his conductor Mukhrir, 25, and bus mechanic Syachroni, 29, suspects and charged them under Article 359 of the Criminal Code on negligence that caused a loss of lives. The crime carries a maximum sentence of five years in jail.

Tegal Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Moch. Iriawan said residents had pelted two Sinar Jaya buses with stones following the midnight incident, causing severe damage to the buses.

"We've have to reroute the buses to prevent the outburst of anger from worsening. This measure will be effective until the route is considered safe," Iriawan said.

Police had guarded a number of Sinar Jaya buses passing the route until the decision to detour them was made.

Like other public buses heading for Jakarta, Sinar Jaya, which plies the Jakarta-Wonosobo route, always passes the main road of Slawi, which is just a few kilometers south of Tegal.

The detour passes Klonengan and Prupuk districts in Tegal, Songgom and Ketanggungan in Brebes regency before reaching Cirebon in West Java.

Iriawan said all three bus crew members had been declared suspects after police found evidence of negligence. The three are being detained at the Tegal Police station for further questioning.

Syahcroni took over the wheel from Fachrur, who felt sleepy, prior to the accident. The road was slippery following rain and Syahcroni, who was speeding, lost control of the bus, according to Tegal Police traffic unit chief Adj. Comr. Situmeang.

The officer said the bus crashed into a number of oil drums and caught fire. The burning bus then rammed into four parked motorcycles and four houses before it came to a stop.