The China Post staff
Officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday confirmed reports that five people attending the annual meeting of the World Taiwanese Association (WTA) recently died in a fatal car accident in Brazil’s Petropolis. Chang Siao-yue, the foreign ministry’s spokeswoman, said the tragic accident took place on the afternoon of August 1 local time when a chartered bus loaded with WTA’s participants fell off the cliff from a mountain highway. Passengers on board of the ill-fated bus were said to be en route to Rio de Janeiro and two other Brazilian cities for a 120-people group tour after visiting a tourist attraction known to the locals in Petropolis as “the imperial city”. Chang said the five people killed in the accident, including Andrew Lee, Suzan Chen, Nancy Su, Paul Tsai, and Chen Lung-hsiung, were all from Taiwan, though resided either in Brazil or the U.S. In addition to the five deaths, Chang said at least 36 people on board the coach also sustained various degrees of injuries as results of the accident. Miraculously, the bus driver and the tour guide on board of the vehicle were not hurt in the accident. The foreign ministry’s spokeswoman said, in light of the auto accident, officials from Taiwan’s representative office in Rio have arrived in Petropolis to offer assistance to the victims and their families. Meanwhile, since the car wreck, there have been conflicting reports on the real cause of the accident. It was said that, upon further investigation, the Brazilian police ruled that the driver of the chartered bus was responsible for the deadly auto accident because he was said to be driving at high speed even as the bus was making a sharp turn. Yet contrary to the official statement, there were also reports that the accident occurred because the bus driver did an “illegal change of lanes”, causing the vehicle to plow into a truck traveling on the opposite side of the traffic on the mountain highway. In light of the tragedy, many of the country’s WTA members, including several government officials, such as Council of Labor Affairs’ chairwoman Chen Chui and senior presidential adviser Yao Chia-wen, had their lucky stars to thank after their visa applications were rejected by the Brazilian government and they were refused entry into the country to attend this year’s meeting. Due to the recent straining of relations between Taiwan and Brazil over the trans-Pacific custody battle of a 6-year-old boy, critics said the South American country has since become unusually strict toward visa applications for several WFTA members from Taiwan.