Police clear state-owned tanker in fatal Mekong Delta highway crash

Thanh Nien News

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Police in the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang have concluded that a tanker involved in a highway collision that left seven dead, including two French nationals, and seven injured was not to blame for the accident.
The accident occurred on April 16, but it wasn't until July 21 that police released the results of their official investigation, Tuoi Tre reported.
The accident occurred while a bus from the Thao Chau Company driven by Tran Thanh Phong, 35, was traveling from Ben Tre Province to Ho Chi Minh City along the HCMC-Trung Luong Highway with 14 passengers.
When the bus entered a section of the highway that crossed through Tien Giang’s Chau Thanh District, it crashed into a tanker watering trees along the highway. 
Seven people, including Phong and a visiting French couple, Jean-Jacques Loreal and Nicole Boussiron Loreal, died in the accident. Seven others were injured.
After the accident, several legal and transportation experts blamed the tanker, which was hired by the highway’s management company to water on the day of the accident.
They said the tanker apparently violated the posted speed limit and illegally obstructed traffic.
They further argued that the management company should have closed the lane during maintenance or posted clear warning markers.
Representatives from the French Consulate in HCMC reportedly consulted the Tien Giang police on whether they should take legal action against the tanker and were told to wait for the conclusion of their investigation.
Police reported that the tanker was employed by the state-owned 715 Road Repair and Management Company and it's actions were sanctioned by the Directorate for Roads of Vietnam and the Ministry of Transport.
According to the police findings, the bus was traveling at 92kph in the lane designated for traffic traveling at 80-100kph when it came upon a big red bus roughly 30-40 meters ahead of it.
The driver of the red bus spotted the tanker, which was traveling at the speed of 10-15 kph and swerved into the right lane.
Phong (the bus driver) couldn't stop the bus in time and crashed into the tanker.
Police said there were warning lights on the tanker and a sign reading “Construction Ahead” posted on its rear bumper.
Police concluded that the tanker wasn't to blame for the accident since Phong failed to maintain a buffer of at least 100 meters (as required under Vietnamese law) from the red bus.
Due to his tailgating, Phong didn't have enough time to stop when the bus in front of him moved out of the 80-100kph lane.
The tanker was traveling far below the minimum legal speed for vehicles on a highway, but was engaged in maintenance work, so its speed was considered acceptable.
Current regulations do not dictate speeds for vehicles involved in maintenance work.
According to police, since Phong died in the crash, they have determined not to take legal action.

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