Five dead in minibus-lorry crash

A Pakistani driver and his four Japanese passengers die as a lorry carrying heavy construction materials crashes into their bus in the Western Region.

Five people died near the Al Tarif police station on Wednesday night when a minibus slammed into a lorry's trailer, police said yesterday. At about 11.30pm, a Pakistani bus driver and his four Japanese passengers were driving on the Abu Dhabi-Sela road in the Western Region leading to Ghweifat when a semi-trailer lorry carrying heavy-construction materials including bulldozers turned in front of their vehicle, police said.

Col Hamad al Ameri, the director of the highway's traffic department in Abu Dhabi police, said the lorry driver did not check to see whether there were other cars on the road before entering the road. The bus crashed into the lorry, became stuck, and was dragged another 25 metres before the lorry driver noticed he was dragging the 14-seat bus. Traffic and rescue teams untangled the vehicles and removed the bodies. The Pakistani minibus driver and three of the passengers died at the scene. Their bodies were taken to Madinat Zayed Hospital.

The fourth passenger was taken to Abu Dhabi's Marfa Hospital, where he later died. The lorry driver was arrested and will be charged with causing a fatal accident, police said. The crash came days after a report showing road fatalities had dropped by 51 per cent in July compared with the same month last year. Col Hussain al Harithi, the director of traffic and patrols at Abu Dhabi police, said there were 20 road deaths this July, compared with 41 in July 2009.

Moreover, he said, the number of severe injuries and deaths dropped by 26 per cent, from 43 cases in July last year to 32 in July this year. Col al Harithi attributed the drop to police having increased the number of patrols to issue face-to-face fines and having more interaction with motorists. Handheld radar systems allowed officers to pull over speeding motorists, which deterred other drivers, he added. Media campaigns also raised awareness.

He said accidents last month in the emirate were mainly attributable to errors such as sudden turns, lack of concentration and tailgating. Hussam Subh, a paramedic based in Ghantot, Samha and Shahama, said serious accidents tended to cluster around the weekend. For instance, during his eight-hour shifts over last weekend, he said, he dealt with five road deaths. "Every weekend there are a number of deaths on the road, mostly on Thursday and Saturday evenings," he said.

Jamie Castle, a road safety consultant at the Transport Research Laboratory's regional branch, said a decline in deaths during a single month does not necessarily mean the roads are safer. Other factors, such as population changes or the number of people in vehicles involved in the accidents, could distort the numbers. "Comparisons should be made over a longer period of time," Mr Castle said. He added that, in general, the police, municipality and Department of Transport are coming up with good approaches, which could be changing motorists' behaviour.