Taiwan train driver jammed on brakes but couldn’t prevent rail tragedy: probe

Published (HKT): 2021.04.07 06:35

The train driver in a fatal Taiwanese crash last Friday “did everything he could” to prevent the accident but had only seven seconds to react, according to black box information revealed by investigators.

Those seven seconds were not enough to bring the train to a complete halt from its traveling speed of 125 kilometers per hour, which was below the limit of 130 kilometers per hour, investigators from the Taiwan Transportation Safety Board said.

They absolved the driver, who died in the crash, of responsibility for the tragic outcome, having found that he had slammed on the brakes for the final four seconds.

At least 50 people were killed and 216 injured last Friday in Taiwan’s deadliest train crash in decades, when a packed eight-car Taroko Express rammed head-on into a maintenance truck blocking the rail line.

The truck was previously parked at a construction site located above the tracks but had slipped down a steep slope onto the railroad, and investigators are looking into why that had happened. The vehicle’s windshield was already broken before the crash.

Dashboard camera footage showed the train exiting the tunnel at 9:28:35 a.m. and colliding with the truck 10 seconds later.

“There was a little over one minute between the truck sliding onto the track and the Taroko Express hitting it, according to our initial estimate,” board chair Hong Young said, adding that the driver had applied the brakes.

Another board member, Kang Li, also said that data from the train indicated the emergency brakes were activated.

Workers at the crash site in Hualien county are removing the last two cars of the train, including the driver’s cabin. Of the 216 people injured, 179 have been discharged from hospital.

The funeral for train driver Yuan Chun-hsiu, 33, was held on Tuesday morning at Hualien’s Ji-an township.

Lee Yi-hsiang, the owner of the truck, remained in police custody over the weekend following a tearful apology to the public. Deputy transport minister Wang Kwo-tsai earlier said the government would take legal action against Lee and the construction site’s contractor.

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