Train driver apologizes, vows to take responsibility for crash
Taipei, Oct. 26 (CNA) The driver of a train involved in a deadly crash in northeastern Taiwan on Oct. 21 apologized to passengers Friday and promised to cooperate with prosecutors and accept his responsibility in the tragedy.
"As the driver of the Puyuma, I promise that I will not avoid the issue, cover up the facts or lie," the driver, Yu Cheng-chung (尤振仲), said in a statement that was read by his daughter at a press conference.
Yu called the press conference and was scheduled to attend, but he later decided to let his family members and lawyer handle it instead because his psychiatrists advised him not to address the crash in person for the time being.
In the statement, Yu said he was deeply sorry for the accident, particularly for the 18 people who were killed when the train derailed at a high speed and their family members.
Yu also thanked the public for showing concern for him, and he thanked the rescuers, hospitals, and colleagues at the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) for their support when the accident took place.
Yu was driving the Puyuma express No. 6432 from Shulin in New Taipei to Taitung on Oct. 21 when it entered a curve near Xinma Station in Yilan County at a speed nearly twice the permitted limit and derailed, leaving 18 people dead and 210 injured.
Among the many rumors that surfaced after the crash, there was speculation that Yu had a drug habit that may have played a role in the accident.
During the press conference, Yu's lawyer confirmed that Yu has been subject to deferred prosecution since February for taking amphetamines but has been following the court's order and returning to doctors monthly for check-ups.
Cabinet spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka (谷辣斯.尤達卡) said Thursday that Yu's two most recent examinations showed he was not taking drugs, and that another test was done after the accident, but the results were not yet available.
In the days following the crash, it appeared that the TRA was trying to have Yu shoulder all of the blame for the crash, especially for shutting down the Puyuma's automatic train protection (ATP) system that could have slowed the train down when it exceeded established speed limits.
But records released Thursday suggest that the TRA also may have not taken the problems the train was having and the driver's requests for help seriously enough.
According to communication records between Yu and the TRA dispatcher obtained by the Chinese-language United Daily News, Yu repeatedly asked for help to deal with an unstable power supply in the 45 minutes before the train derailed.
Yu had observed power problems as soon as the train passed Gongliao Station, some 61 kilometers north of Xinma, and was talking with the dispatcher from that point on to try to sort out the problem.
Yu told prosecutors he turned off the Puyuma's ATP system near Daxi, 44 km north of Xinma, but the communication records show he did not report that move until the train reached Luodong, 9 km north of Xinma, about 4 minutes before the crash.
The TRA had previously said Yu did not report shutting down the ATP system at all.
The dispatcher asked Yu twice whether turning off the ATP would work, and the driver replied he would continue to monitor the situation.
But contact with Yu was lost before the control room was able to give him further instructions, the records showed.
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