In Majorca a coach engaged in transferring tourists from their hotel to the airport, caught fire injuring six of the 52 passengers and destroying most of their luggage.
The tour operator responsible for the tourists instructed us to investigate the circumstance of the incident.
We went straight to the coach operator's workshops where the vehicle had been taken and discovered repairs to the braking system were already underway. The English courier who had been on the coach at the time of fire was interviewed along with passengers at the hospital.
We gathered information that after collecting passengers from the first hotel they noticed smoke in the passenger cabin and the courier alerted the coach driver.
At the next pick-up point ‘more’ passengers boarded when the driver was seen crawling under the rear of the coach. He informed the courier the problem had been fixed and the journey continued.
After several more hotel stops the coach commenced the journey towards Majorca Airport when the cabin started to fill with thick black smoke as the floor, seats and curtains ignited. The driver pulled over to the side of the motorway to commence evacuating the passengers and they all escaped the burning vehicle, however several sustained serious burns necessitating emergency hospital treatment.
During the investigation it was discovered that the rear left brake had been seizing in the on position after the brake pedal was released, causing the brake shoes and road wheels to overheat. The driver had identified the problem when he crawled under the vehicle and he pulled the brake rod back so that the brakes were fully released. However on the next occasion the brakes were applied and then released the rod again stayed in the on position causing the brakes to become hot, the tyres ignited and set fire to the floor of the coach.
With the assistance of an interpreter we interviewed the coach driver who admitted trying to fix the brakes outside the first hotel and then continuing to drive the vehicle knowing that the brakes were defective and there was a serious risk of fire.
By reaching the location of the damaged coach immediately after the incident occurred, we were able to identify the cause of the fire before the coach operator hastily carried out the repairs clearly intending to complete the work before blame could be apportioned. Our report on the incident placed the tour operator in a favourable position to claim back from the coach operator the significant compensation they had paid out to the tourists.