Driver of truck involved in deadly train crash released on bail

04/03/2021 08:23 PM
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TRA contractor Lee Yi-hsiang (right) leaves the court building after posting bail. CNA photo April 3, 2021
TRA contractor Lee Yi-hsiang (right) leaves the court building after posting bail. CNA photo April 3, 2021

Taipei, April 3 (CNA) The driver of the crane truck that fell onto a train track in Hualien County on Friday, causing a deadly train crash, was released on bail Saturday.

Lee Yi-hsiang (李義祥), who had parked the truck on a hill above the southbound track of the Taiwan Railways Administration's (TRA's) east coast mainline, was granted bail of NT$500,000 (US$17,516.21) by the Hualien District Court after being held for questioning by police and prosecutors since Friday afternoon.

The court, however, imposed restrictions on Lee's movements, restricting him to Hualien City and banning overseas travel.

The court also barred Lee from contact with witnesses to the accident and TRA maintenance workers near the location, for the next eight months.

The Hualien District Prosecutors Office, which sought to detain Lee, said it will appeal the court's decision, as prosecutors see Lee as a high flight risk, and because the accident is believed to have resulted from his negligence.

Lee is the owner of a company contracted by the TRA to carry out work on the northbound section of the Qingshui Tunnel. The accident on Friday morning occurred when a southbound Taroko Express train crashed into the truck on the tracks at the entrance to the tunnel, killing at least 51 people and injuring 186.

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 rail because its parking brake was not properly engaged, either as a result of mechanical failure or human negligence.

Following Lee's release on bail Saturday, he told reporters near his home that he "did engage the parking brake" on the truck.

Lee Yi-hsiang (in blue shirt) leaves the court building and returns to his home in Hualien City.

Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Chi Wen-jong (祁文中) told reporters at the crash site that there was no work in progress at the Qingshui Tunnel on the morning of the train crash, because it was the Tomb Sweeping Festival holiday, which started Friday.

The TRA had given instructions for work at the site to be halted on March 31, ahead of the four-day holiday, Chi said, adding that he did not understand why some of the maintenance workers had told the media that Lee had been inspecting the site Friday morning.

On the question of why the truck had slipped down the incline onto the train track, Chi said prosecutors and the Taiwan Transportation Safety Board are conducting investigations.

Family members of victims who died in the train crash hold a ritual to summon the lost souls at the crash site. CNA photo April 3, 2021
Family members of victims who died in the train crash hold a ritual to summon the lost souls at the crash site. CNA photo April 3, 2021

Hualien District Court documents show that Lee was convicted in 2018 of falsifying documents on another local government contract to show that his company had constructed a fence, in a different area, when in fact he had not done so and had been paid for the job.

Following several appeals, the Taiwan High Court's Hualien Branch on Feb. 19 upheld the conviction and sentenced Lee to six months in prison, a sentence that can be commuted to a fine and cannot be appealed.

(By Lee Shien-feng, Chang Jung-hsiang, Chang Chi and Kay Liu)

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