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Fatal bus crash driver pleads guilty

An aerial view of the bus crash from last year.

The driver of a bus which crashed in the Bay of Plenty, killing five people including a child, has plead guilty to a total of 13 charges.

Junwwei Zhang, 40, has appeared in Rotorua District Court today after being arrested following the fatal crash outside of Rotorua in September 2019.

During today's appearance, Zhang entered guilty pleas to 13 charges in total, five of operating a vehicle carelessly causing death and eight of operating a vehicle carelessly causing injury.

One of those killed was a child.

His appearance and pleas come almost 10 months since the fatal crash that took place on State Highway 5, close to Rotorua, on September 4 last year.

The bus had 27 people on board when it rolled off the road.

Zhang was convicted on all charges and will be sentenced on September 21.

Before entering the dock Zhang bowed before Judge Marie McKenzie.

The summary of facts outlines how Zhang was driving the bus in wet and windy conditions through a bend with an 85km per hour recommended speed limit. It also notes there was “no evidence to suggest that the defendant was exceeding” that limit.

“A strong crosswind caused the rear wheels of the bus to slip,” the summary said.

“The defendant lost control of the bus.”

It said Zhang then quickly steered right, causing the rear of the bus to swing left.

“When the rear of the bus began to drift left, the defendant over corrected which caused the rear of the bus to swing right into the opposing lane and rotate 180 degrees.

“As the bus slid off the road, the rear passengers were jolted right, causing five passengers to be propelled out of the right hand rear windows.”

The bus then slid down a small bank and rolled on top of the five passengers, killing them.

The summary also lists the “moderate to severe” injuries suffered by surviving passengers, including broken ribs, pelvic, spine and neck fractures.

McKenzie also ordered a pre sentence report to examine suitability for electronic and home detention sentences.

“I wish all sentence options to be available to the court,” she said.

She also asked for a report to examine the issue of reparations.

The site of the fatal crash was visited the day after by Chinese ambassador Wu Xi who laid flowers at the scene.

She told Stuff at the time she had been left "traumatised and saddened" by what she described as a tragic incident.

-Stuff/Benn Bathgate.

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3 Comments
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@Yadick

Posted on 05-07-2020 18:03 | By morepork

You raise a very good point. I see "inexperience" or "lack of skill" rather than "carelessness". Over-correcting a bad situation is NOT carelessness. There is also an element of very bad luck here in that people who were expelled from the bus were then crushed by it as it fell down the slope. I feel for the driver as well as the victims.

In What Way?

Posted on 03-07-2020 17:43 | By

In what way did he operate the bus carelessly?

It IS a

Posted on 03-07-2020 15:43 | By morepork

... for everyone concerned. The description of events in the article would indicate a driver with insufficient skill or training to be able to handle the adverse conditions properly. It makes me wonder what kind of testing people have to undergo in order to get a licence to carry passengers. Nobody can "win" here, but we should be seeking (insofar as we can) to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. Maybe there should be some kind of provisional endorsed licence until drivers have amassed some years of experience.