A1/1999Y Coach accident in Heinola on 17 April, 1999
On Saturday, 17 April 1999 at 09.28, a chartered coach, register number FAB 624, drove up a ramp at the southern Heinola intersection, across the intersecting road of a T-intersection and through a railing. The coach flew 8,7 metres in the air to the bottom of an embankment. The front of the coach hit the ground, but the coach remained upright on its wheels and continued some 20 metres along an old road bed until its carriage stuck in a pile of sand.
The coach was carrying a driver and 39 passengers. Three of the passengers were killed immediately. One passenger died in hospital one week later, on 23 April 1999. In addition, 32 passengers were injured. Also the driver was seriously injured.
The cause of the accident was found to have been that the coach entered the curve at the top of the ramp, turning to the left, at a speed of at least 55 km per hour. The curve began 70 metres before the barrier. It took the coach five seconds to cover these 70 metres, during which the coach began to lean to the right. The driver had to focus all of his attention on righting the vehicle, after which it was no longer possible for him to take any emergency measures.
The driver has stated that the brakes of the coach failed when he tried to brake on the ramp before the curve. During the investigation no defect was detected in the brake system that could have caused such a failure. An examination of the running recorder did not show any signs of slowing at the ramp that would indicate clear use of the brakes. On the other hand, no circumstances have become apparent that would have shown the driver’s statement about brake failure to have been false.
A contributing factor to the accident was the driver’s lack of familiarity with driving a coach during the previous fifteen years, when he had not been working as a coach driver. This led to uncertainty in driving coaches and in assessing traffic situations.
The shape of the ramp to the southern Heinola intersection has also contributed to the accident. At the start of the ramp, one can see only a gradual curve to the right, which easily leads to the impression that the ramp continues in the same direction, carving all the way to the intersecting road. At this stage, drivers do not consider it necessary to slow down. The sharp curve to the left at the end of the ramp comes as a surprise.