A file photo of the bridge spanning the Yangtze River in Chongqing. Photo: WikiMedia

As expected, police investigators have blamed last week’s bus tragedy in Chongqing on a rowdy female passenger who began attacking the driver after missing her stop, tipping the vehicle into the Yangtze River.

But the driver was found equally culpable for the crash, which killed all 15 people on board. Police said the bus crashed off a bridge in the southwestern city after the woman became agitated and struck the driver because he refused to drop her in the middle of the bridge.

Initial findings had pinned the blame on a female driver whose car collided with the bus. However, she was cleared of any responsibility after it emerged that the bus had gone onto the wrong side of the road.

CCTV footage taken before the crash shows the bus driver instinctively taking his right hand off the wheel to defend himself against the shouting woman, even though the vehicle was still in motion.

Wanzhou No 2 Bridge in Chongqing, where the crash occurred. Photo: Google Maps

The driver’s other hand then jerks the wheel and the bus veers off  course, ramming onto the parapet and railings of the bridge before plunging into the river below. Police estimated the bus’ speed at no less than 51 kilometers per hour at the time of the accident.

The wreckage of the bus has been pulled out, after the authorities dispatched more than 70 salvage vessels and marine rescuers to the river. Underwater robots were used to scour the bottom.

Local governments are looking at a range of measures to stop drivers being distracted, including stiffer punishments for passengers at fault. Screen doors may also be installed so drivers are not easily distracted.

Meanwhile, the Chongqing authorities have insisted that the bridge was built in strict compliance with safety standards, after the media questioned the quality of the bridge railings due to their failure to prevent the bus from falling into the river.

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