A minibus used as a tourist coach crashed into the back of a casino shuttle bus on the Macau-Taipa Friendship Bridge on Friday morning, resulting in a huge fire that gutted the two vehicles, the Public Security Police (PSP) and the Fire Services Bureau (CB) said.
Only the female driver of the minibus, which did not have any passengers, was slightly injured.
The casino shuttle bus had about half a dozen passengers on board when the accident happened.
The 57-year-old minibus driver, surnamed Chan, the 40-year-old male driver of the casino shuttle bus, summed Leong, and the passengers on board managed to get off the two buses before the fire erupted. Both drivers are local residents who both passed breathalyser tests.
The minibus crashed into the casino shuttle bus as the minibus driver failed to brake in time when the casino shuttle bus slowed down. The authorities said on Friday they were yet to determine the cause of the fire.
Wong Chi Wang, a senior officer of the PSP Traffic Department, and Kuok Pan, who heads the Areia Preta fire station, briefed reporters about the accident at the scene.
The crash happened at around 9:45 a.m. on Friday when the two buses were travelling from Taipa to the peninsula.
When the Venetian shuttle bus slowed down while going up the slope, the minibus travelling behind crashed into the back of it, Wong said.
The casino shuttle bus driver evacuated the five or six passengers on board, who were later picked up by another Venetian shuttle bus which happened to drive past the accident scene, according to Wong.
A fire suddenly erupted at the scene shortly before 10 a.m. Firefighters arrived at the scene in a matter of minutes, but the two buses were already engulfed in flames, Kuok said.
10 emergency vehicles
Kuok said that his bureau deployed 10 emergency vehicles the scene. It took firefighters 20 minutes to extinguish the blaze with three hoses.
The minibus driver, who sustained slight abrasions to her knees, told paramedics at the scene that she felt pain in her chest, after which she was taken to the public Conde de São Januário Hospital for outpatient treatment.
The Mitsubishi Rosa minibus was completely gutted by the blaze, while the Venetian shuttle bus – a Yutong coach powered by natural gas – had its rear section completely burnt.
The police said later on Friday that the casino shuttle bus, which came into use in 2018, passed its annual examination in January last year, while the minibus came into use in 2006 and passed its annual examination in March last year.
Commercial vehicles must undergo an examination by the Transport Bureau (DSAT) every year.
Rosa minibuses produced by Japanese commercial vehicle manufacturer Mitsubishi Fuso have been widely used in Macau for several decades.
Yutong is a mainland bus manufacturer headquartered in Zhengzhou, the provincial capital of Henan province. Yutong, which entered the Macau market about a decade ago, is now one of the major coach brands used by local travel companies and gaming operators as their casino shuttle buses. It is also the only mainland brand that the two public bus operators are using in their fleets.
Gaming operators started to add new-energy coaches, such as electric ones and those powered by natural gas, to their fleets of casino shuttle buses a few years ago.
Two-way traffic on the four-lane, 4.7-kilometre-long bridge was stopped for 30 minutes while firefighters were carrying out their fire-fighting operation.
The city’s longest Macau-Taipa bridge was reopened to traffic partially while traffic police officers were investigating the accident and firefighters were cleaning the road surface before the bridge was fully opened shortly before 1 p.m. on Friday.
According to the Macau Post Daily, the accident caused serious traffic jams on the bridge and around its entrances on both the peninsula and Taipa sides.
Friday’s fiery collision between the two buses came after a similar incident in 2008, when a Transmac No. 34 route bus caught fire when travelling on the Friendship Bridge from the peninsula to Taipa. The bus driver pulled over near the bridge’s exit on the Taipa side and told the some 30 passengers to get off after he noticed smoke coming from the rear of the vehicle. The bus, which came into use in December 2006, was completely gutted by the blaze on August 9, 2008. The findings of an investigation showed that the fire was caused by a short circuit in the bus’s generators air conditioning.