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Manager takes blame for Taiwan train crash

A railway maintenance worker whose truck rolled onto the tracks and sparked Taiwan’s worst train disaster in recent decades apologized on Sunday, saying he would cooperate with investigators.

At least 50 people were killed, and more than 200 were injured in Friday’s crash, which sent a packed eight-car train hurtling into the sides of a narrow tunnel near the eastern coastal city of Hualien.

Investigators say the Taroko Express hit a truck on the line moments before it entered the tunnel.

The vehicle slipped down a steep embankment, and prosecutors are working on whether the driver either failed to secure the parking brake or the brake suffered a mechanical failure.


On Sunday, the driver, Lee Yi-Hsiang, read an emotional statement to a bank of media cameras. “I am deeply remorseful and want to express my most sincere apologies,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion. I will cooperate with the investigation by police and prosecutors to take the responsibility I should take,” he added.

Mr. Lee, 49, was part of a team that regularly inspected Taiwan’s mountainous eastern train line for landslides and other risks. Prosecutors questioned him over the weekend and released him on bail by a court pending further enquires. As questions mounted over how packed the train was and why no fences were on that section of the track, transport minister Lin Chia-lung offered his resignation on Sunday. But the government did not accept it, which said he should remain in place until the investigation results were known.

Emotional prayers

The crash has plunged Taiwan into mourning. Survivors reported that the train driver was honking his horn shortly before the crash but did not – or could not – slow down before striking the truck. The United Daily News newspaper ran a report on Sunday based on initial analysis from footage of the train recorder that showed the car was on the line before the train went into the tunnel and no slowdown before impact. Some survivors lost entire families, and the youngest victim was just four.

A French national and two Americans were also confirmed killed.

Around one hundred relatives held an emotional Taoist prayer ceremony on Saturday near the crash site.

Shaded under a canopy of black umbrellas, they wept openly, calling for their loved ones to “come home”.

Friday’s crash took place at the start of the Tomb Sweeping Festival, a four-day public holiday when many Taiwanese returns to villages to tidy the graves of their ancestors.

Taiwan’s eastern railway line, a popular tourist draw, winds its way through towering mountains and dramatic gorges before entering the picturesque Huadong Valley.

Taiwan’s last major train derailment was in 2018, leaving 18 people dead on the same eastern line.

Taiwan’s deadly rail disaster was in 1948 when a train caught fire, and 64 people perished.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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