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Mohammad Al Tamimi, the Omani driver's lawyer, told Dubai Traffic Court that the distance between the warning signboard and the height barrier was only 12 metres. Image Credit: Dubai Police

Dubai: The two defence lawyers of the Omani bus driver, who rammed into a height barrier resulting in the death of 17 passengers last month, argued that the height barrier was placed in violation of the GCC standards and guidelines for positioning advance warning signs, a court heard on Tuesday.

Mohammad Al Tamimi, the Omani driver's lawyer, told Dubai Traffic Court that the distance between the warning signboard and the height barrier was only 12 metres.

“The mistake is in the place of the height barrier according to the pictures in the accident scene. The GCC guideline for positioning advance warning signs states that if the road’s speed limit is 60km/h, then the distance between the signboard or height restriction chain and the height barrier should be 60 metres, not 12 metres in our case,” lawyer Al Tamimi told the court.

According to Traffic Prosecution, the speed limit on that road is 40 km/h.

The 53-year-old defendant was charged with causing the wrongful death of 17 passengers and injuring 13 others in the bus accident on the road towards Rashidiya Metro station on June 6.

“It was too short a distance to stop the vehicle. It is not the defendant’s mistake and not his negligence. Putting the height barrier in a wrong place caused the accident,” he added.

Al Tamimi claimed there is no proof that the defendant was driving the bus at 94KPH when the crash happened.

He asked the court to assign a specialised engineer from the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) to inspect the crash site and make a report of the positioning of warning signboards and the height barrier.

Meanwhile, the second defence lawyer Mohammed Al Sabri accused the RTA of eight “mistakes” found by a report made by the company that owns the bus.

He submitted a copy of the report to the court and requested the appointment of an expert to examine the accident location and check if the “mistakes” were committed by the RTA.

“The reason behind the accident was the solid height barrier and its positioning. The sun at the time of the accident [5pm] blurred the signboards to the driver. The confession of the driver is not enough to convict him,” Al Sabri told the judge.

The Muscat-to-Dubai Mwasalat bus service struck an overhead height barrier at 94 km/h on June 6 at the turn off from Mohammad Bin Zayed Road leading onto Rashidiya Road, where it was due to make a scheduled stop at Rashidiya Metro. The driver took a wrong left turn, instead of right, into a section not designated for buses.

Earlier last week, Prosecutor Salah Bu Farousha Al Felasi, director of Traffic Prosecution, said the driver couldn’t follow the signboards as the sun shade had obstructed his view.

“He admitted to lowering the sun shade and didn’t notice the signboards or warning signs, despite having used the road several times before the accident,” said Al Felasi. “His reckless driving, not paying attention to the road and his speeding, caused the disaster,” he added.

According to Dubai Prosecution, there are two lanes for buses and taxis in the four-lane road leading to the entrance of Al Rashidiya Metro station. There are also flashing light signboards about 342 metres from the location of the accident to warn drivers of the upcoming height restriction, speed bumps and two big signboards to warn drivers to stay in the lane before the barrier.

After hitting the barrier at 94 km/h in an area with a 40 km/h speed limit, the bus stopped 44 metres away from the point of impact.

Twelve Indians, two Pakistanis, an Irish, Omani and Filipina, were killed in the accident.

The verdict is expected on July 11, while the defendant will remain under police custody.