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Huolala driver arrested over death of client in Hunan

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A driver for online moving company platform Huolala was formally arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of negligently causing the death of a female client in his van last month, police in Changsha, capital of Hunan province, announced.

The driver, surnamed Zhou, allegedly deviated from the route set by the platform to save time before the customer, 23-year-old Che Shasha, fell from his moving van, according to a police report.

Zhou, 38, is from Changsha. He signed up to be a driver for Huolala-a ride-hailing platform that concentrates on moving people’s belongings-in September 2019.

On Feb 6, Zhou received a moving order through Huolala from Che and arrived at her old home at around 8:40 pm.

According to the report, Zhou asked Che whether she needed his help to move her belongings from the house to the van, which would require her to pay an extra fee, but she refused.

Che made 15 trips to and from the house to load the van. Zhou urged her to move more quickly, saying that the platform stipulated that drivers would charge more money if they had to wait for clients for more than 40 minutes, but Che ignored him, the report said.

At 9:14 pm, they set out for their destination, with Che sitting in the front passenger seat. Zhou again asked her if she wanted to pay to have him help her unload her belongings after arriving, but she refused again.

As they drove, Zhou changed the route to save time and grab more orders through the platform.

Che began questioning him about why he was changing the route. At first, he ignored her, but then he began expressing his dissatisfaction with her, according to the report.

For reasons that are unclear, Che got up from her seat and leaned her body out of the van’s window. Zhou did not attempt to stop her, nor did he stop the vehicle even though he noticed what she was doing, it said.

When she fell out of the window, Zhou stopped the van to check and found her lying on the ground. He called an ambulance at about 9:30 pm and then the police five minutes later.

Che died in hospital on Feb 10.

Police said Zhou did not drive abnormally and noted the front passenger window was half open during the trip. There were no signs of struggle in the van, which was deemed to be in good condition.

Police found that Zhou’s alternate route could have saved them four minutes from a 21-minute trip, but the route was dimly lit and sparsely populated.

Forensic examination showed no tearing on Che’s clothes or any evidence of a fight, nor did it reveal any of Zhou’s DNA on her clothes or fingernails.

Her death is believed to have been caused by a head injury she sustained when she fell.

The procuratorate in Changsha formally approved Zhou’s arrest on Wednesday. He had been detained by police on the negligence charge since Feb 26.

On Feb 24, Huolala issued a statement saying that it had apologized to Che’s family and had obtained the family’s understanding. The company also promised to rectify problems and strengthen its existing safety features.

Huolala also said it is cooperating with the authorities as the investigation continues.

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