Driver in deadly train accident says investigators hid crucial facts

Taipei-The driver of a Puyuma Express train that derailed last year in Yilan killing 18 people said Thursday that the investigators in the case had buried evidence that showed he was not to blame for the accident.

Yu Chen-chung (???), who was charged with involuntary manslaughter, said that on the day of the accident -- Oct. 21, 2018 -- he reported a problem with the train before he started on the route but was ignored by his superiors at Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA).

Speaking at a press conference, Yu said his worksheet for that day was a record of his report and there was also video footage showing his superiors handing him the key card to drive the train, despite his complaint.

However, none of that evidence has appeared in a report produced the Cabinet-appointed investigative team, Yu said, accusing the investigators of suppressing the evidence and deliberately skirting crucial facts in the accident.

Following the investigation, Yu and two other TRA employees were indicted in June on charges of involuntary manslaughter as a result of the Puyuma train derailment in Yilan County that left 18 people dead and 267 injured.

Citing the investigators' report, prosecutors said the driver should be held partly responsible for the crash because the train was going too fast at the time of the accident and he had turned off the automatic train protection (ATP) system without informing the control center in a timely manner.

The train was traveling at a speed of about 140 kilometers per hour when it approached a curve and derailed near Xinma Station, prosecutors said, pointing out that the speed limit on that segment of the track was 75 kph.

As Yu approached the curve, he was supposed to manually reduce the speed but neglected to do so, which caused the train to derail, prosecutors said.

According to the investigative report, Yu turned off the ATP system due to power problems after train No. 6432 from New Taipei to Taitung left Daxi Station, 44 km north of Xinma.

Yu did not deny deactivating the ATP, but said the report was incorrect in stating he had been speeding and had "left the speed command gear at 140 km per hour" after the train left Luodong station, 9 km north of Xinma.

The driver said his recollection was that he had kept the speed at about 82 kph after the train passed the Wu Lao Keng bridge, about 1 km north of Xinma.

At Thursday's press conference, he said TRA drivers sometimes turn off the ATP when there are technical problems so that it would not impede the train's operations.

The next round of investigations should focus other aspects of the report such as whether the train's tilting device was functioning normally at the time of the accident, the driver urged, two days after the Taiwan Transportation Safety Board (TTSB) said it was examining the report by the investigative team.

The TTSB, which was established two months ago, said Tuesday that it planned to spend another year reviewing data in the hope of identifying the cause of the Puyuma Express train accident.

The board said it would seek to determine, among other factors, the speed at which the train was traveling at the time of the accident, the angle at which it had titled, and whether the braking system was functioning normally.

Commenting on the case, Yilan District Chief Prosecutor Chiang Chen-yu (???) said Thursday that prosecutors are now investigating Yu based on all available evidence and are doing their jobs impartially.

Meanwhile, Cabinet spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka (???????) said the case has entered judicial proceedings and the Cabinet will respect the judiciary investigations.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel