Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 14 December 2019

Driver 'not responsible' for deaths of 17 in Dubai bus crash, defence lawyers tell court

Lawyers for an Omani bus driver - jailed for seven years - tell an appeal court he should be acquitted due to safety failings at the crash site

Seventeen people died in a horrific bus crash in Dubai in June. 
Seventeen people died in a horrific bus crash in Dubai in June. 

Lawyers representing a bus driver jailed for seven years and ordered to pay Dh3.4 million in compensation for causing the deaths of 17 people in a road crash in Dubai are calling for him to be acquitted.

The Omani driver, 53, admitted causing wrongful death in July after it was found he was travelling at more than double the speed limit when his bus struck an overhead height restriction barrier.

The crash, in which another 13 people were injured, occurred at about 5.40pm on June 6 at Al Rashidiya exit on Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Road in Dubai, with the bus carrying passengers returning to the UAE from Muscat after the Eid holiday.

The driver claimed bright sunshine hampered his vision when he took a wrong turn and missed signs warning motorists about the barrier.

At an earlier hearing, the court heard that monitoring technology installed in the bus showed he was driving at 94 kilometres per hour on a road with a speed limit of 40kph, with an additional 20kph buffer, when he hit the barrier.

The impact of the collision tore a metre-tall gash along the length of the 30-seater bus.

The driver’s lawyers lodged an appeal against his sentence, arguing that he should be acquitted because safety failings on the route where the crash took place meant he could not be held responsible for the deaths of the passengers.

At a hearing at Dubai’s Court of Appeal on Thursday, his lawyers said they had commissioned an independent report that uncovered several faults in the layout of the road.

“We kindly request that Al Rashidiya Police Station provide a list of similar accidents that have taken place on this street,” said Mohammed Saif Al Tamimi, a member of the driver’s legal team.

Fellow legal counsel Mohammed Al Saberi told the court a request to appoint an expert to examine the crash site was dismissed during a previous hearing, prompting them to contact an independent expert.

“We reached out to a professor who is a professional engineering consultant and head of a roads and safety facility in Australia. We provided him with all the documents related to the crash,” Mr Al Saberi said.

“His report to us a few weeks later stated that there were several obvious errors that contributed to the crash occurring and that were not the responsibility of our client.”

The court heard the report said the 12-metre distance between a height restriction chain, meant to warn drivers about the barrier, should have been a minimum of four times longer to give sufficient time for the driver to react.

“The report also said the barrier should have been made of a different material that would break into pieces if an impact happened so as to serve its goal of stopping an offending car without causing loss of life,” Mr Al Saberi said.

He said the placement of warning signs also breached regional traffic guidelines.

He told the court that a report prepared by the company running the bus service suggested Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority may bear responsibility in eight separate areas relating to the crash.

“A verdict in the case was passed a month after it was referred to court. Is one month enough, your honour, to examine a case of this importance?” Mr Al Saberi said.

The driver’s lawyers repeated their request for an independent expert to be appointed by the court to examine the site of the crash.

They requested the court find the driver not guilty.

The case was adjourned until October 31, when a verdict is expected to be passed.

Updated: September 19, 2019 04:49 PM

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