Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 30 September 2020

Road safety expert calls for barrier in fatal Dubai bus crash to be removed

Six months on from horror accident in which 17 died, renewed calls have been made to replace solid structure struck by bus driver

The barrier at the centre of the fatal bus crash remains in place six months on.
The barrier at the centre of the fatal bus crash remains in place six months on.

A leading road safety expert has backed calls for a barrier struck by a bus in a fatal crash in Dubai to be removed - six months on from the tragedy.

Seventeen people were killed when an Omani bus driver, 53, smashed into the height restriction barrier near the Al Rashidiya exit while travelling at more than double the speed limit on June 6.

On the day of the accident, the driver made the wrong turn and took an exit not designated for buses. Not seeing the height-restriction barrier, or the warning chain before it, the driver rammed straight into it.

The impact was so severe that it sliced through the length of the left portion of the 30-seater bus.

The driver was sentenced to seven years in prison and ordered to pay Dh3.4 million in blood money to families of the victims after admitting causing wrongful death at a Dubai court.

Such barriers are in place to warn drivers of larger vehicles of upcoming hazards, such as a bridge or, in this case, entry to the multi-storey car park at Rashidiya Metro Station.

Some families of victims told The National that, while it is right the driver is punished for his role in the accident, the barrier should be replaced by one made of lighter materials to prevent the possibility of further tragedy.

It is a view supported by Daniel Albuquerque, assistant professor of transport engineering at UAE University, who urged authorities to act.

“Roads should be made so they are forgiving to a driver who has an accident," said Mr Albuquerque.

“They could replace it with a barrier that is designed to break apart on impact or they could even raise the entrance of the car park to allow taller vehicles access.

“I know this might seem expensive but the cost is nothing compared to having almost 20 people die.”

In October, a Dubai court ordered a panel of experts to examine the scene of the crash, after the bus driver appealed the sentence on the grounds the barrier, rather than his driving, was the reason for the death toll.

The cost is nothing compared to having almost 20 people die

Daniel Albuquerque

Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority declined to comment because the “legal case was continuing”.

The family of aspiring model Roshni Moolchandani, who was 22 when she died in the accident, said removing the overhead barrier the bus crashed into would spare others from suffering the same anguish they have endured.

Darpan Moolchandani, Roshni’s younger brother, said he has emailed the RTA several times since the accident asking for clearer signage to warn motorists about the barrier well in advance of turning into the exit.

Indian model Roshni Moolchandani, 22, was among the 17 passengers to die in a bus crash in Dubai on Thursday. Courtesy Roshni Moolchandani Instagram
Indian model Roshni Moolchandani, 22, was among the 17 passengers to die in a bus crash in Dubai on Thursday. Courtesy Roshni Moolchandani Instagram

“I understand that the main mistake is down to the driver so strict action must be taken against him so every other driver in Dubai is alert and knows that they can be punished too,” he told The National via telephone from the family’s home in Ajmer, Rajasthan in western India.

But he argued the barrier "should not be made of such hard material that it takes the lives of people.

“If a different material is used, this kind of an accident would never happen.”

The RTA maintains it adhered to international safety standards and sufficient signs, including road bumps and a height restriction chain, were in place to warn motorists about the barrier.

Police said the driver failed to see the warning signs because he hung a material panel across the top of the windshield to protect his eyes from the sun.

Mr Moolchandani, 21, said the RTA responded to his email on October 21 in which they said the driver was speeding and video footage from the bus indicated he has been driving erratically as a result of the long distance he had travelled.

The maximum-height sign in Dubai that was struck by the bus. Seventeen passengers died in the tragedy. The National 
The maximum-height sign in Dubai that was struck by the bus. Seventeen passengers died in the tragedy. The National 

The transport authority maintained the road leading to the Metro car park had several signs warning large vehicles not to take the route, the driver had previously used the route on numerous occasions and the accident occurred because of his “inattention”.

“This was the first major accident at this location over the lifetime of this barrier,” the RTA stated in the email obtained by The National.

“Finally, we in RTA do not want to see any major accidents and we regret the loss of any life on Dubai roads, we will do whatever necessary to safeguard the road users’ lives.”

Mr Moolchandani said his parents and elder sister were still struggling to come to terms with the loss of Roshni.

“I understand the barrier is in line with international standards but the fact that this disaster happened is proof that international standards can be wrong,” he said.

“Even if they do not remove the barrier, they need to take more action."

Updated: December 7, 2019 01:41 PM

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