IPOH: “Brek tak makan, Brek tak makan! (The brakes are not working).”
Those were the last words that tour coach co-driver Saad Salleh, 55, shouted before the bus crashed into the back of a latex tanker at the Jelapang toll plaza here yesterday.
The 4.09am tragedy, the worst mishap so far at the accident-prone toll plaza, claimed seven lives and left 28 others injured.
Four were in critical condition while 16 were hospitalised and eight received outpatient treatment.
Ipoh OCPD Asst Comm Azisman Ismail said six people, including driver Lim Tek Lee, 49, and his co-driver, died on the spot while one died at the hospital.
The dead passengers have been identified as Siti Rasadah Ibrahim, 46, Dahara Mohamad, 60, Puteh Mat Isa, 66, Muhamad Husain, 50, and his daughter Nur Syuhadah, 15.
The bus was ferrying a group of 35 Wanita Umno members, mostly from Kampung Kubang Jawi in Kuala Kedah, who had left Masjid Kubang Jawi in Alor Star, Kedah, at midnight for Cameron Highlands for a two-day, one-night trip to visit a tea plantation.
Haminah Nik Mat, 57, who survived the crash with a fractured wrist and swollen ankles, said the driver started losing control of the bus after it passed the Menora tunnel.
“The driver shouted that the brakes were not working and everyone began to scream hysterically,” said Haminah when met at the Ipoh Hospital emergency ward.
She said the bus careened dangerously over the 5km stretch from the tunnel to the toll plaza and then rammed into the tanker, which was just moving off after its driver had paid the toll.
It is believed that the toll booth operator managed to flee just before the crash.
Another victim, Umi Kalsom Wan Dollah, 16, who was seated in the centre of the bus with her cousin, said: “The impact of the crash caused most of us to be pinned in our seats,” adding that she was lucky to have escaped with cuts and bruises.
Assariza Derani, 38, who fractured her hand and neck, said she too had been pinned in between the seats.
“The luggage from the overhead compartment fell on me,” she added.
A spokesman for Langkawi-based based travel agency Ocean Vista Adventures Sdn Bhd, which is the registered bus owner, said the bus had never encountered any technical problems during its journeys.
He said the bus passed a Puspakom inspection in early September.
He added that the seven-year-old bus was bought for about RM100,000 from another travel agency in Johor Baru in April.
“We have used it to ferry tourists on various excursions across the country,” he said, adding that the bus was serviced and checked regularly.
On allegations by accident victims that the drivers had been speeding, the spokesman said: “We have never received complaints about the drivers from customers.”
Ipoh OCPD Asst Comm Azisman Alias said police have identified brake failure as a possible cause of the accident.