Singaporeans injured in Johor accident still traumatised, angry at bus operator’s silence

Hanissah Abdullah was travelling with friends to Kuala Lumpur when the bus they were on went off the highway near the Pagoh suburb of Johor Baru and landed on its side. ― Picture by Hanissah Abd/Facebook via TODAY
Hanissah Abdullah was travelling with friends to Kuala Lumpur when the bus they were on went off the highway near the Pagoh suburb of Johor Baru and landed on its side. ― Picture by Hanissah Abd/Facebook via TODAY

SINGAPORE, Nov 29 — One woman suffered a fractured collarbone and another was cut by glass shards on her palm.

Five days after their coach overturned when it veered off a highway in Malaysia, the two Singaporeans are still traumatised by the accident and upset that the bus company has not contacted them or apologised for what happened.

Hanissah Abdullah, a 21-year-old student, was travelling in a group of three to Kuala Lumpur for a weekend getaway and had boarded a bus operated by Billion Star Express last Friday (November 22) evening.

After leaving Singapore, near the Pagoh suburb of Johor Baru, the bus careened off the highway and landed on its side around 1am.

Mohamad Faizal Mohamed Jailani, a bus controller from Billion Star Express who is based in Malaysia, confirmed the accident.

He told TODAY that he could not provide the exact number of passengers on that bus, because some of them may have taken a bus that departed earlier if there were available seats. The bus that crashed left Singapore at about 7.30pm last Friday.

Speaking to TODAY separately, Hanissah said that there were about 20 people on board.

Before the crash, she was sleeping but was woken up when the bus was swaying from one lane to the other.

“(The driver) was not alert and looked really sleepy. Even his body was swaying left and right,” she said. She was seated two rows behind the driver.

Shortly after, she saw the driver’s body leaning to the left and that was when the bus went off the highway, fell into a ditch and tipped over.

“Bags from the top compartment flew. I fell right on my friend, who was sitting on my left,” she said.

The impact was so great that her other friend Nur Liyana Ali — who was on her first trip to Kuala Lumpur — was flung one row behind. The 20-year-old got glass shards in her palm as well as minor cuts on her forehead and the left side of her face.

Liyana said: “I was so shocked I started shaking. I was sleeping soundly and the next thing I knew, I was flung to the back.”

Got onto another bus

Chaos ensued when the passengers smelled smoke coming from the back of the bus and realised that there was no way out.

Hanissah said: “I kept shouting at the driver to switch off the engine. I think he was also in shock.”

The authorities came not long after and released an opening on the roof of the bus for passengers to get out.

Faizal said that Billion Star Express sent another bus to pick up the affected passengers, but Hanissah and Liyana said that the bus was one that happened to pass by the accident site.

“Everyone was crammed into the new bus. There were already passengers in there, so many of us had to sit on the floor and steps,” Hanissah said.

She added that she and her friends flew back to Singapore last Sunday.

‘Driver said he had enough sleep’

Zulkifli Mohd Yasin, assistant investigation officer at Bukit Aman police headquarters, told TODAY that the bus driver was fined for careless driving.

He estimated the fine to be about RM300 and added that no penalties would be imposed on the company.

Refuting claims that the bus driver was sleepy and not alert, Faizal said during his interview with TODAY that the driver told him he had had 10 hours of sleep the night before.

Faizal also defended the driver, saying that he was an experienced driver who had worked with several consortiums before joining Billion Star Express three months ago.

Liyana and Hanissah, who suffered a fractured collarbone, both said that they still have not recovered from the shock.

Angry at the lack of accountability from Billion Star Express, Hanissah went down to its counter at Golden Mile Complex on Tuesday to demand an apology, only to be given the runaround by staff members at the front desk.

She was given just the number of a bus controller about an hour later and he said that he would get back to her this coming Friday. It is unclear if the bus controller is Faizal.

Hanissah said: “I’m not even asking them to compensate my medical bills, but at the very least, they can own up to their mistakes and take ownership for this traumatic experience.”

On why the company has not reached out to affected passengers, Faizal said that he is waiting for them to come forward because the company does not have their details.

However, Liyana said that when she booked her bus ticket online, she had to provide her full name, email address, contact number and nationality.

When asked about compensation for affected passengers, Faizal did not answer the question, saying only that the company is claiming insurance. ― TODAY