After the tour bus he was driving crashed into a guardrail on a mountain highway and caught fire on June 26, Liu Dahui, rather than try to save his passengers, instead abandoned the vehicle, allowing 35 to perish.
He is now in custody, Chinese police say.
The bus had 54 passengers, including 4 children, who were awoken to the jolting and bumping of their bus crashing against a guard rail. The oil tank then broke, causing a fire and belching thick smoke on the right side of the bus, according to Hunan propaganda authorities.
“People in the bus woke up, yet no one knew what happened,” said Liu Fang, a witness and passenger who escaped, in an interview with Beijing News. Another survivor, who identified herself as Wang Li, said they couldn’t find the hammer to break the bus windows. Eventually, a passerby used a rock to smash one of them open. Other passengers similarly improvised.
With some help by the passerby, 11 passengers managed to escape with injuries and scratches; over half of other riders perished, including 2 children. A witness observed smoke at 10:20 am, with flames soon engulfing the entire bus; he then heard terrible screaming, he told Beijing News.
The vehicle, now reduced to a black frame, is a discontinued model equipped with only one door—which had been blocked by the guard rail when the vehicle crashed.