Taiwan truck driver appears in court over fatal train crash

Taiwan truck driver appears in court over fatal train crash

The train was carrying almost 500 people.
FACEBOOK/鄭榮貴

A Taiwanese construction site manager whose truck rolled down a hill and collided with a train appeared in court on Saturday (April 3), local media reported.

The accident on Friday killed 51 passengers and crew and injured nearly 180, making it the island’s worst rail disaster in 7 decades. The dead included 2 engineers and a French national.

The first 2 carriages of the train, which was travelling from New Taipei City to Taitung, derailed after striking the truck as it entered a tunnel near Hualien.

The Taipei Times reported that the construction site boss was not in the vehicle at the time of the accident.

The Taiwan Transport Safety Board has started an investigation into the accident and investigators are now looking at whether the truck’s brakes had been properly applied or whether there was a mechanical failure.

The truck driver was delivered to the Hualien prosecutor’s office after being questioned by police on Saturday, according to Apple Daily.

A court granted him bail of NT$500,000 (S$23,600) and the prosecutor is seeking to appeal the decision, the report said, adding that he is not permitted to leave Taiwan.

Earlier on Saturday, the director-general of the country’s prosecution service Lin Jinn-tsun told reporters that prosecutors had applied for a warrant to arrest the construction site manager on charges of causing death by negligence and forging documents.

“Prosecutors will certainly step up their investigation and understanding of the crimes or of other suspects involved in the case,” Lin said, adding he expected the courts to approve the arrest soon.

Yu Hsiu-duan, head of the Hualien prosecutors office, said prosecutors were at the scene of the accident in collecting evidence.

The deputy transport minister Wang Kwo-tsai said in a press briefing that authorities are considering setting up protective fences along rail lines to avoid similar accidents in the future.

Friday’s accident was the worst rail disaster on Taiwan since a train caught fire in 1948 in suburban Taipei, killing 64 people.

Taiwan’s interior ministry ordered all flags to be lowered to half-mast for 3 days while the island’s President Tsai Ing-wen visited the wounded in Hualien’s hospitals.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen visits victims at a hospital in Hualien.
PHOTO: Reuters

“Government agencies are making an all-out effort in the hope of minimising the impact of the disaster so the deceased can rest in peace and the injured can recover soon,” she said.

Xi Jinping sent his condolences to the victims and families of those killed in the deadly train crash in his capacity as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

“Xi has been deeply concerned about the accident that caused heavy casualties,” Xinhua reported.

On Friday, the mainland’s Taiwan affairs office also sent its condolences. The mainland paid close attention to the follow-up rescue progress, spokesperson Ma Xiaoguang said in a statement.

Rescuers work to clear the site.
PHOTO: Reuters

Meanwhile, the All-China Federation of Taiwan Compatriots issued a letter of sympathy saying “people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are of the same family. May the deceased persons rest in peace and those who are injured quickly recover.”

Train travel is popular during the four-day Tomb Sweeping holiday, when families often return to their hometowns to pay respects at the graves of their elders.

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