Taiwan train driver jailed for speeding in 2018 fatal derailment

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TAIPEI (AFP) – A Taiwanese court sentenced a train driver to four and a half years in prison on Monday (Oct 18) for negligent homicide over a 2018 derailment that killed 18 people.

The crash on the scenic eastern coastline also injured around 200 people and left the Puyuma Express lying zig-zagged across the tracks.

The driver – identified only by his family name You – had turned off an Automatic Train Protection (ATP) system used to monitor speed, the court said in a statement.

He was driving at 140 kilometres per hour, twice the limit for the curved part of the track where the train approached a station in northeastern Yilan county, causing it to derail, the statement added.

“The defendant’s speeding has a substantial cause-and-effect connection with the mass causalities of the train incident… but he has denied any wrongdoing and shown no remorse.” He can appeal the ruling.

The driver was communicating with dispatchers about mechanical problems and did not slow down or hit the brake two minutes before the train flipped, according to a cabinet report on the incident.

Passengers recalled how the train had been shaking intensely during the journey and was going “too fast” before it derailed.

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

In April, 49 people were killed and more than 200 injured when a railway maintenance truck slid down an embankment moments before a packed train came down the line in the eastern coastal city of Hualien.

The trial is ongoing for the truck driver who has been detained on charges of negligent homicide.

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