A bus crash in Taiwan in which an entire tour group from China’s mainland were killed was caused by a “suicidal” driver who intentionally set the vehicle on fire, according to Taiwan investigators.
Earlier, authorities has said the driver, Su Ming-cheng, had been drunk when his bus caught fire and rammed through an expressway in July, killing himself and 25 others on board.
Minutes before the incident, Su — who was driving the tour group to the airport — poured gasoline over the driver’s seat and on the floor near the exit before setting it on fire with a lighter, investigators said on Saturday.
“Su, who was drunk driving, committed suicide by pouring gasoline and setting a fire, killing other passengers,” local prosecutors said in a statement.
An investigation found dozens of phone records between Su and his family in the days before the crash, with relatives pleading for him not to commit suicide.
“Don’t you love the three children in your family? Don’t let them be ashamed. If you do this, it will bring shame to us all,” a text message from his sister read.
Su was also described by Taiwan authorities as a regular drinker with a violent history.
He had been hit with separate lawsuits for scuffling with a tour guide and sexually assaulting an unnamed victim.
Su was once detained for a period of 25 days on a charge of injuring a tour guide after drinking alcohol. In addition, he had been sentenced to five years in prison for rape, though a final verdict had yet to be given when the bus fire took place as he had decided to lodge an appeal, according to prosecutors.
“Because of this, Su was depressed,” they said.
In May, Su was briefly suspended by his employer for fighting with another tour guide.
Su’s job driving the group from the northeast city of Dalian in July was his first after the suspension, according to Taiwan officials.
The incident prompted mainland authorities to demand the island take measures to improve safety for mainland visitors.
On Saturday, a mainland spokesman denounced the incident that had led to the deaths.
“We strongly condemn the deliberate vicious criminal case, and express strong indignation over such heartless, inhuman conduct,” a spokesman for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office said.
Since the incident took place on July 19, the office has repeatedly urged Taiwan authorities concerned to investigate the cause of the incident and who was responsible, and give an explanation to the families of the victims, the spokesman said, adding that the incident and some hurtful words and deeds from the island have had a serious impact on mainland tourists’ traveling to Taiwan.
He said mainland authorities would continue to urge the Taiwan side to properly handle follow-up issues, including compensation, and will provide full assistance to the victims’ families in handling related affairs.
Taiwan saw a boom in tourism from the mainland under previous leader Ma Ying-jeou, who oversaw an unprecedented eight-year rapprochement with the mainland.
But numbers have slipped since Tsai Ing-wen won a victory in elections in January, with the number dropping by almost 24 percent from May 20 to September 6.