Human error blamed for run-away Taiwan train
By Alice Hung
TAIPEI: Human error caused a train to derail half way up a mountain in Taiwan, a prosecutor in charge of the investigation said on Sunday, in an accident that killed 17 passengers and injured 173.
Lo Chien-hsun said a device connecting the locomotive and the brake was not switched on, leading the four-car train to descend Alishan mountain at 40 km (24 miles) an hour on Saturday. The train normally travels at 16 km per hour. “The driver, co-driver and conductor should have checked everything before operating the train. But they didn’t check properly,” Lo said.
The three were released on bail after being detained for questioning on Saturday.
Train driver Tsai Cheng-shan said the train had passed its daily saftey check and was not overloaded. He added there was nothing he could do when the accident happened at one of Taiwan’s most famous tourist spots on a bridge on a downward stretch on the way up the mountain.
Survivors said it was like a roller-coaster ride before the train derailed and crashed, leaving two carraiges hanging over the bridge while a third came to rest at the bottom of a ravine.
“The train went downhill too fast. It was like a roller-coaster ride, going down all the way,” said Lu Jui-hsiang, who was among the injured. “It was like the train had no brake,” said Lu, who was travelling with his wife and five children. They all survived.
In the local morgue, grieving relatives mourned loved ones.
“He called me on his mobile before boarding the train,” said a weeping woman whose son was killed. “He was very excited to be on the train.” Relatives of the victims burned incense at the crash site on Sunday with taoist priests performing religious rituals.
“Come home, my son,” cried Chu Su-hui who lost her husband, three-year-old son and mother-in-law in the accident. She was too weak to stand on her own.
The historic narrow-gauge rail line has its final stop 2,216 metres (7,270 ft) above sea level. It was built to haul cypress logs down the mountain when Taiwan was under Japanese rule before World War Two, but now mostly carries tourists. —Reuters