Not guilty plea in BOP fatal bus crash case

An aerial view of the crash scene. Photo: Philips Search and Rescue Trust.

A bus driver charged after five Chinese tourists, including a child, were killed near Rotorua will have his court case moved closer to the crash site.

In Auckland on Tuesday, Junwei​ Zhang confirmed his not guilty pleas to 13 charges including driving carelessly and causing the deaths of five people.

Zhang, in his late 30s, also faced eight charges of careless driving causing injury after the September crash.

He bowed as he approached the Auckland District Court dock.

The court heard there was no dispute about moving the case to Rotorua.

A Mandarin interpreter was present.

Defence counsel Owen Martell said he would help Zhang file a legal aid application and get a new lawyer assigned to the case.

The case will be heard again in the Rotorua District Court on March 18.

Judge Evangelos Thomas said Zhang's appearance at that hearing was excused.

Stuff previously reported the bus had 27 people on board when it rolled off the road. 

Chinese ambassador Wu Xi​ visited injured passengers in Rotorua and Waikato hospitals after the crash.

Police at the time said Zhang wasn't seriously injured. 

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