The scene after a bus collided with a tanker near Yanan in northern China's Shaanxi province on August 26. Chinese authorities have launched an inquiry after a photograph of a government official grinning widely at the site of the crash, which killed 36 people, went viral and triggered a public outcry. The image showed Yang Dacai in a relaxed pose with a broad smile on his face
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
BEIJING: Chinese authorities have launched an inquiry after a photograph of a government official grinning widely at the site of a fatal bus crash went viral and triggered a public outcry.
The image showed Yang Dacai, head of the work safety administration in northern Shaanxi province, where 36 people died in a collision between a bus and a methanol tanker on Sunday, in a relaxed pose with a broad smile on his face.
Yang said on his microblog he was "full of remorse" for his actions on Sunday, saying the photograph had been taken during an "unguarded moment" and that he had been trying to put his colleagues at ease.
"My heart was heavy when I reached the scene... junior officials appeared nervous when they were updating me on the situation," he posted in reply to questions from angry web users.
"I was trying to get them to relax a little, so maybe, in an unguarded moment, I got a little too relaxed myself."
To make matters worse, web users who saw the image scrambled to post pictures of Yang wearing a series of expensive-looking watches -- a controversial issue in China, where government officials are criticised for having lavish tastes.
An expert quoted by the China Daily newspaper said the five watches he had been shown wearing had a combined value of more than 300,000 yuan ($47,000).
Authorities in Shaanxi said on the province's official microblog late Thursday they had opened an investigation into the incident and that any "discipline violation or corruption" would be severely dealt with.