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Fiji Time: 4:29 AM on Thursday 17 April

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Friction led to fire

Mere Naleba
Thursday, May 09, 2013

THE bus fire at Malaqereqere that claimed 12 lives in August 2008 started from the main wire of the battery rubbing against a displaced engine part, the High Court in Suva heard yesterday.

LTA CEO Naisa Tuinaceva made this revelation in his testimony as he revealed findings of their investigations into the incident.

"The displaced position of that engine part could have been caused by some work that was done to the bus, creating sparks which was building up and could also be the source of fire. The sparks were caused by wires rubbing," Mr Tuinaceva said.

He said the LTA team worked alongside a team from the Australian Federal Police, National Fire Authority, local forensics team and the Fiji Police Force.

"The conclusion of the report which was submitted to the Minister of Public Works and Transport in 2008, was that the fire started from the engine area — on the left hand side."

Earlier yesterday, the mechanic who worked on the bus that morning, Shalen, told the court he was asked by his former boss at Ashok Transport Limited to go with their foreman to the RBL garage to fix a bus.

"When we got there, we were told to change the clutch brake and the pressure brake of the bus, RBL001.

"When we opened the seal, we found that it was leaking and then we changed it," Mr Shalen said as the trial entered its third day.

When questioned by prosecution Madonna Fong on what he did after changing the engine parts, Mr Shalen replied: "The foreman started the engine and left it running for about 15 minutes before we took it for a test drive, he then checked if the clutch was working by moving the bus backwards and forward."

Mr Shalen said they fixed the bus from 10am to 6:30pm on August 28 that year.

In cross examination, accused Kaminieli Tuimavana's lawyer Gavin O'Driscoll asked Mr Shalen if he was a qualified mechanic, to which he responded that he was uneducated and is not a qualified mechanic but was learning on the job.

Mr Shalen said they did not change anything in the gearbox because he was only told to change the clutch brake and the pressure brake.