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May 30, 2017

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Bus-crash travel agency has license revoked

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) on Monday revoked the business license of Iris Travel Service Co. (蝶戀花旅行社), the travel agency that organized the one-day trip that killed 33 last month.

A tour bus returning from Wuling Farm after a one-day trip that departed from Taipei the morning of Feb. 13 crashed off National Highway No. 5, killing 32 people, including the driver, and injuring 11, making it the deadliest bus accident in 30 years.

While expressing regret for the accident in the aftermath, the travel agency denied any responsibility for the poor condition of the crashed bus or the allegedly overworked driver.

At a press conference held shortly after the incident in February, the founder of the travel agency Chou Pi-tsang (周比蒼) said that the crashed bus was owned and maintained by another bus company, Yu Li Express, therefore the liability should lie with them.

He also cited an old Chinese proverb "humans die for money, birds die for food" at the press conference, indicating that should evidence prove that the deceased driver Kang Yu-hsun (康育薰) had worked more than the legally-allowable hours, then he had chosen to so for the money. The comment sparked widespread anger and condemnation.

Iris Travel's Testimony Overturned

At Monday's press conference, MOTC Administrative Deputy Minister Chi Wen-jong (祁文中) said that the ministry has decided to revoke Iris Travel Service's business license for violating the Act for the Development of Tourism and the Consumer Protection Act.

Responding to questions about why the MOTC had waited until now to revoke Iris Travel Service's business license, Tourism Bureau Deputy Director-General Chang Shi-chung (張錫聰) said that the MOTC only recently gathered sufficient evidence to prove that the travel agency was fully responsibility.

While the crashed bus was registered by Yu Li Express, it was maintained and owned by Iris Travel Service, Chang said, further establishing the travel agency's employment relationship with the deceased driver, whom prosecutors have proved worked more than the legally allowable hours and consecutive days before the tragedy.

Yu Li Express' business license was revoked one week after the incident, but drivers and other owners whose buses were registered under the company's name had protested that the entire company should not have to pay for Iris Travel Service's mistake.

Regarding the victims, Chi said that out of the 33 deceased, 31 of them have now conducted funeral services, and received insurance payments.

Seven out of the 11 injured passengers have been discharged from hospital, while the remaining four are in stable condition. Three of the 11 injured passengers have settled insurance claims, Chi said.

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