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Taxi deaths leave stain on drivers
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A report of a taxi driver who ignored warnings and drove into a flooded Chongqing tunnel - an action that led to the death of two passengers, including a 2-year-old boy - has been blamed by colleagues for staining their image.

Taxi deaths leave stain on drivers

As the taxi began to fill with water, driver Wen Hui escaped, fleeing at what fellow drivers say was a critical point.

"Wen should help his passengers first. Safeguarding the safety of passengers' lives and property is the basic ethic for a driver," Zhang Fengquan, a Chongqing taxi driver in his 40s told China Daily.

Four sisters and a 2-year-old boy were in the taxi Wednesday morning on their way to the train station. As the car approached the underpass outside the station, they noticed a lot of water and asked the driver to take another route, said the boy's mother, Zhang Ailing.

The driver continued and the car was quickly submerged in water more than 1.5 meters deep.

The doors opened and water flooded into the car, which began to sink.

Zhang and two of her sisters swam to the roof of the taxi and were rescued by firemen at about 6 am.

The boy and Zhang's sister, Lin Shuzhen, were found dead in the car by rescuers.

Driver Wen Hui, from a county in the east of Sichuan province, was detained by police on allegations of traffic offence, said Chongqing public security bureau team leader Zhao Zhiping.

Wen cried when hearing about the deaths.

"I really regret it. I feel sorry for the victims' family and my own family. I hope they can forgive me," Wen said.

"There was so much rain that day I didn't see the warning sign. When I found out about the deep water, it was too late," he said.

"Water came in in seconds. I was very scared and got out of car," he said.

The entrance to the 8-meter-high underpass, which reportedly has poor drainage, was cordoned off and guarded by traffic wardens yesterday.

Ye Xinglin, a lawyer with Beijing-based Shanggong Law Firm, said a taxi driver is always obliged to help passengers if they feel they are in danger.

"If it's true that Wen didn't see the warning sign, then it's his carelessness that led to the tragedy. In this case, he would be sentenced to three to seven years in prison," said Ye.

In an online survey conducted at QQ.com yesterday, 37 percent believe the driver should be held responsible for the tragic car accident while 63 percent think local authorities are responsible as the water was not cleared in a timely fashion.

Floods in Chongqing have killed at least 10 people and left one missing in the last four days.

(China Daily August 7, 2009)

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