News of the bus crash that killed 17 passengers had sent shockwaves through Dubai back in June.
Now, the 53-year-old Omani driver is being prosecuted for the accident that saw the bus plough into a height barrier at Al Rashidiya exit towards the metro station on Mohammad Bin Zayed road in Dubai.
The driver pleaded guilty to causing wrongful death before the Dubai Traffic Court on Tuesday, admitting he had lowered his sun shade and was thus unable to see the entire road at the time of the crash.
The tourist bus, which routinely travels back and forth between Oman and the UAE, carried 31 passengers on June 6. The vehicle is operated by the Oman National Transport Company (Mwasalat) and travels between Muscat and Dubai on a daily basis.
Warning signals are placed 342 meters ahead of the crash site, "indicating the right lanes and height requirements for all vehicles," alongside speed bumps signs. However, the driver took a road not designated for buses and exceeded the speed limit, driving at 94km/h despite the "40km/h" instruction.
He ultimately hit a height barrier that slashed through the left side of the bus, leading to the death of 17 passengers and the injury of 13 others. Twelve Indians, two Pakistanis, an Irish, Omani, and Filipina, were killed in the accident. Most passengers were asleep at the time of the crash.
"In addition, two big sign boards are put up to remind motorists to stick to the appropriate lanes. One of the boards is located 317 meters from the crash site, while the other is found just before the metal barrier that tore through the bus," Khaleej Times reported.
Late in June, Prosecutor Salah Bu Farousha Al Felasi, director of Traffic Prosecution, announced the driver had been referred to Traffic Court over charges of wrongful death. Al Felasi noted punishment could reach seven years and a fine, along with around 3.4 million dirhams ($925,701) in blood money to the victim's families.
Further information on the case has emerged this week. An official told Gulf News the driver pleaded guilty over charges of causing the wrongful death of 17 passengers and the injury of 13 others.
The driver, who had driven the same road multiple times prior to the incident, had reportedly lowered his sun shade to block sun rays from hitting his eyes. With the sun shade obstructing his view, he failed to follow the signboards and took a wrong turn into a road not designated for buses.
"His reckless driving, not paying attention to the road, and his speeding, caused the disaster," said Al Felasi, noting that the stretch of road where the accident occurred had not recorded any deaths during the past 10 years.
"The bus driver didn't pay attention despite being responsible for the lives of passengers. Passengers usually trust the bus driver and put their lives in his hands, knowing that he should have passed hard tests to obtain such a license," he added.
Al Felasi and Assistant Chief Prosecutor Rashid Al Shamsi have thus called upon Presiding Judge Ali Ghnaim to hand down the toughest penalty to the driver.
Article 342 of the UAE's Penal Code stipulates a prison sentence ranging between three and seven years for any person who causes by his own mistake the death of over three persons, if the crime results of his "failure to observe the ethics as dictated by his employment, profession or craft [...]."
The next hearing is scheduled for July 9.