Three in family of 4 die in crash, missed earlier train

04/03/2021 04:51 PM
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Chung Hui-mei (left) is the only person in a family of four who survived Friday
Chung Hui-mei (left) is the only person in a family of four who survived Friday's train crash. CNA photo April 3, 2021

Hualien, April 3 (CNA) Three people in a family of four were killed in Friday's train crash in Hualien, after they missed an earlier train on which they were booked to travel to eastern Taiwan during the four-day Tomb Sweeping Festival.

The lone survivor in the family, Chung Hui-mei (鍾惠美), said she suffered only minor injuries to her forehead and arm when the Taroko Express train derailed at the entrance of the Qingshui Tunnel, but her 56-year-old husband Chang Hsin-sheng (張信盛), 22-year-old son Chang En-hsiang (張恩翔) and 20-year-old daughter Chang En-yun (張恩昀) all lost their lives in the accident.

The indigenous Amis family from New Taipei City was on their way to Yuli Township in Hualien to visit relatives during the Tomb Sweeping Festival and had purchased standing room only tickets on the southbound Taroko Express after they missed their scheduled train from Taipei earlier in the morning, Chung told reporters.

The family was traveling in the first carriage, which was directly behind the engine and suffered some of the worst damage when the train slammed into a crane truck on the rails near the tunnel, she said.

According to Chung, the train sounded its whistle as it approached the tunnel, but it was traveling at a high speed and did not appear to have slowed down.

CNA photo April 3, 2021
CNA photo April 3, 2021

Moments later, the train ran off the tracks and crashed into the wall of the tunnel, sending people flying out of their seats and crumpling the first carriage, she said.

Chung said that when she found her bearings, she located her husband and son under a pile of suitcases and metal debris, but they showed no signs of life.

She then heard her daughter calling to her, she said, but when Chung tried to move the debris to get to her daughter, two other young people began crying out in pain and they begged her to desist, as the movement was hurting them.

All three members of Chang's family were later confirmed dead.

The two siblings were students at National Taiwan Sport University (NTSU) in Taoyuan, according to a statement issued Friday evening by the university.

Chang En-hsiang was a second-year student in the Sport Promotion Department and a graduate of Taipei Municipal Jianguo High School, while Chang En-yun was a highly talented sprinter, NTSU said.

The university said it was providing counseling services to its students in the wake of the tragedy and had sent staff to Hualien to offer condolences to Chung and her extended family.

As of Saturday morning, 50 fatalities had been reported in the crash, making it the deadliest railway accident in the country since 1948, according to Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA).

Investigators are looking into the possibility that the crane truck, which had been parked on a hill above the track, slid down the incline and fell onto the track because its emergency brake was not properly engaged, either as a result of mechanical failure or human negligence.

(By Lee Shien-feng and Matthew Mazzetta)


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