Train’s Driver Disabled Speed Controls Before Taiwan Crash, Officials Say


TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwanese investigators found that excessive speed caused a train derailment that killed 18 people, and said Tuesday that the train’s driver was considered a possible criminal suspect in the accident.

The derailment on Sunday, which injured 190 other people, happened in the northeastern county of Yilan as the southbound train entered a curve at 87 miles per hour, according to a government task force commissioned by Premier Lai Ching-te. All the train’s eight carriages derailed, with five overturning.

The Taiwan Railways Administration confirmed Tuesday that the train’s driver, surnamed Yu, had manually disabled the automatic train protection system, which ensures the train does not exceed safe speeds. The speed at which the train approached the curve was nearly twice the safe limit for the Puyuma line.

Mr. Yu was placed on a bond of 500,000 new Taiwan dollars, or about $16,100, by a court Tuesday. He is under suspicion of negligence, but investigators are also looking into whether the train was experiencing mechanical problems that may have caused the crash.

The accident on Sunday was the worst ever for the Japanese-built Puyuma Express trains, which are the fastest trains serving Taiwan’s east coast. The Puyuma trains went into service in 2013.

In the half-hour before the accident, Mr. Yu had reported unusually low pressure from the air compressor that controls the train’s power system, Lai Sui-chin, deputy director of the railway agency’s rolling stock department, told the local media Monday. The train received maintenance service at Yilan station before continuing south.

Citing the continuing investigation, railway officials would not comment Tuesday on Taiwanese news reports that illuminated signs related to the train’s control and management system — effectively the train’s central nervous system — had been flashing irregularly before the crash.

Sunday’s derailment was Taiwan’s deadliest rail accident since a train collision on the country’s west coast in 1981 killed 30 passengers. Among those killed in the crash Sunday were eight members of a family returning from a wedding.

The derailment destroyed a section of the rail line to the city of Hualien, which was hit by an earthquake over the summer and was struck by a less powerful quake on Tuesday. Loss of the rail line, at least until it is repaired, is likely to complicate the reconstruction of the city.

Source : Nytimes