Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Henan have charged a police officer with "endangering public safety" after a car he was driving, allegedly while drunk, crashed, killing five people.
Wang Yinpeng, who heads a police station in Henan's Liangzhu township was formally charged with "endangering public security by dangerous means" after he lost control of his van in an accident in the town on Saturday afternoon.
An official who answered the phone at the Runan county government offices confirmed media reports that Wang had been formally detained and charged.
"He has been detained, and they are dealing with it," the official said. "You will have to call the propaganda department for the actual details."
"There is a special task force set up to deal with it."
According to official media reports, the van crashed into two utility poles, which fell on a group of people sitting on the busy street, killing five of them and injuring three others.
Witnesses reported hearing the crash and seeing a damaged police vehicle alongside people "lying on the floor in pools of blood," the official China Daily newspaper reported.
Wang is suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol, and police are now investigating the incident, the paper said.
"It wasn't quite 3:00 p.m.," said an eyewitness surnamed Zhou. "The people were sitting on the roadside eating, and the vehicle drove over and crashed into them."
"They were sitting there but they hadn't gone into the road," she said. "Four of them died at the scene. Two of them were young people, and three of those who died were from the same family."
She said Wang was detained at the scene of the crash. "It was a police officer, and he was drunk ... they are still investigating, but they haven't announced anything yet," Zhou added.
She said hundreds of people had gathered at the scene following the accident.
"How could people not be angry?" Zhou said.
A report in the Southern Metropolis Daily said local people had overturned and smashed up vehicles which arrived to remove the bodies, out of anger at the incident.
A resident of Liangzhu surnamed Wang said he felt sorry for the people who died.
"It was so cruel," Wang said. "They were all migrant workers from around here."
Calls to the Liangzhu police station went unanswered during office hours on Monday.
Back to 'normal'
Zhou said life in Liangzhu had returned to normal on Monday, however.
"Everyone is going to work here as normal," she said. "The streets are very quiet, and there is no one gathering."
"No one is talking about this matter any more," Zhou added. "I heard that the families of the deceased have been placed under surveillance ... they were taken away on the same evening [as the accident.]"
In January, a court in northern China's Hebei province sentenced the son of a high-ranking police officer involved in a hit-and-run road accident to six years in prison in spite of calls for a much harsher punishment after he caused the death of a female student.
Li Qiming's case brought him nationwide notoriety because of his defiant outburst to officials and angry witnesses to the incident: "Go ahead, sue me. My father is Li Gang!" he reportedly told them.
Li's outburst sparked widespread rage and satirical attacks from Chinese netizens. Li Gang was the deputy chief of Baoding's Beishi district police bureau at the time.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service and by Fung Yat-yiu for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.