21 Jun 2016

Charges laid against driver in fatal Vanuatu crash

5:16 pm on 21 June 2016

Police have laid charges against the driver of a tourist bus involved in a fatal crash with another bus in Vanuatu.

Several Australians travelling on the bus have been airlifted for treatment overseas from the capital, Port Vila.

The driver, who was transporting tourists from the Pacific Dawn cruise ship, has been charged with reckless driving causing death after he allegedly crossed the centre line and collided with an oncoming vehicle.

The driver of that bus, carrying local passengers, was killed as was one of his passengers - a woman who was eight months pregnant.

Police said the tourist bus driver was still in hospital being treated for minor injuries.

Three of the tourists, including a child, were seriously injured and have been airlifted to New Caledonia.

More air ambulances were arriving to take the remaining injured tourists to a hospital in Brisbane.

The crash happened 6km south of the city, according to a police spokesperson.

The Vanuatu government said there would be a full investigation into the crash, which was on the road leading to Erakor Village in Port Vila.

The Vanuatu Daily Post reported the bus carrying the tourists was returning from Ekasup Cultural Village and was travelling at high speed when it crashed into the other bus.

P&O Cruises, which operates the Pacific Dawn, said the medical airlift was under way to move the injured tourists to hospitals in Brisbane and Noumea.

The police said the two injured local tour guides remained in Port Vila Central Hospital.

It was understood no New Zealanders were among the injured.

P&O said the tourists' injuries were significant and the company made the decision to airlift them to take the pressure off health services in Port Vila.

The Vanuatu government moved to assure people of local safety standards.

In a statement it said it had recently announced plans to strengthen road rules and improve traffic conditions.

The crash came as Vanuatu's tourism industry was trying to recover after some international airlines stopped flying to Port Vila's Bauerfield International Airport over runway concerns.