Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 19 October 2019

Fatal Dubai bus crash barrier incorrectly sited, lawyers claim

Seventeen people died when vehicle smashed into a height restriction bar

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 

A lawyer representing the driver of a fatal Dubai bus crash has blamed traffic authorities for wrongly positioning an overhead height restriction barrier.

Mohammed Saif Al Tamimi said the siting of the bar struck by the bus was in violation of Gulf Cooperation Council standards.

Seventeen people died and 13 were injured when the vehicle first hit a height restriction chain before smashing into an additional, solid-steel barrier last month.

The impact of the collision was so severe that it tore a metre-tall gash right down the length of the 30-seater bus.

Last week, the driver of the vehicle, 53, from Oman, pleaded guilty to causing wrongful death. His ongoing court case is being held, in part, to help establish the length of his sentence.

“Guidelines state that in a 60kph street, the distance between a height restriction chain and an overhead height restriction barrier should be 60 metres,” Mr Al Tamimi told Dubai Traffic Court.

The solid-steel barrier cut through the bus at seat height, striking and killing many of the passengers on board. Dubai Police
The solid barrier cut through the bus at seat height striking and killing many of the passengers on board. Courtesy: Dubai Police

“[But] on the street where the accident happened, the distance was only 12 metres.

“Removing one’s foot between the acceleration and brake pedals would eat up the 12 metres and leave any driver incapable of coming to a complete stop.

“According to international and GCC standards, such barriers should not be made of solid steel to avoid [this type of] catastrophe.”

The devastating crash happened at the Al Rashidiya exit just off Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Road in Dubai at about 5.40pm on June 6.

On board were 30 passengers returning to the Emirates from Muscat, Oman’s capital, following the Eid Al Fitr holiday.

Victims included 12 Indian nationals, two Pakistanis, one Irish woman and one passenger each from Oman and the Philippines.

Fifteen of the passengers are understood to have been killed on impact while two more died in hospital the same day.

Since the crash, reports have surfaced suggesting the bus struck the barrier at 94kph, more than double the 40kph speed limit traffic authorities have said should have been observed.

In court on Tuesday, however, defence lawyers said the speed limit at the site was 60kph when factoring in the additional 20kph buffer allowed in Dubai.

They also argued no documents had been presented by authorities to back up the claim of 94kph.

They urged the court appoint a specialist, independent road engineer to examine the crash site and assess the positioning of all relevant height restriction signs and barriers.

“The accident occurred due to errors present at the crash site,” said Mohammed Al Saberi, a second lawyer representing the bus driver.

He argued, without going into detail, that a report prepared by the company running the bus service had found Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority was at fault in eight separate areas relating to the crash.

At a previous hearing last week, Salah Bu Farousha Al Felasi, director of Traffic Prosecution, called for the bus driver to receive the strongest possible sentence.

The defendant, who has claimed bright sunshine hampered his vision in the lead up to the tragedy, could face up to seven years in jail.

Reports also suggest he may have to pay Dh3.4 million in blood money to compensate families of the victims.

Police have said he was tested for both drugs and alcohol consumption following the crash but was found to be negative.

“The driver’s irresponsibility, lack of attention and carelessness caused a great calamity,” Mr Al Felasi said.

A spokeswoman for Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority said the body would not comment on an ongoing court case. A verdict is expected on July 11.

Updated: July 9, 2019 05:00 PM