New evidence suggests driver sought to retrieve truck before crash: source

04/08/2021 09:42 PM
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Crane truck driver Lee Yi-hsiang (in yellow) escorted by police as he enters Hualien District Prosecutors Office on Thursday.
Crane truck driver Lee Yi-hsiang (in yellow) escorted by police as he enters Hualien District Prosecutors Office on Thursday.

Taipei, April 8 (CNA) Newly surfaced evidence suggests that Lee Yi-hsiang (李義祥), the driver of the crane truck that caused the deadly train crash on April 2, tried but failed to maneuver his truck from where it had got stuck in roadside bushes shortly before the accident, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Thursday that based on new evidence, Lee had tried to extricate the truck with an excavator.

The official, however, declined to confirm whether Lee's failed attempt was what caused the truck to slide down an incline onto the rail track, where it was hit by an express train, saying only that the attempt was a key focus of the investigation.

Meanwhile, Taiwan Transportation Safety Board (TTSB) Chairman Young Hong-tsu (楊宏智) said Thursday at the Legislature that the TTSB retrieved a second chip belonging to the crane truck's dashcam Wednesday, which provides "key" findings regarding what happened to the vehicle immediately prior to the accident.

The southbound Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) Taroko express train collided head-on with the crane truck on the track near the entrance to the Qingshui Tunnel in Hualien County last Friday at 9:28 a.m. The accident killed 50 people and injured over 200.

The second chip contains a one-minute film that captures images of excavators at the construction site above the scene of the accident and includes a conversation between Lee and an assistant, according to the chairman.

From the conversation, which lasts for only a few seconds, it appears that the truck was in trouble and the two people were discussing what to do next, said Young, who declined to disclose further information, saying only that all the evidence has been provided to prosecutors involved in the ongoing investigation.

The second chip was retrieved from the rubble in the tunnel after the first carriage of the train was pulled out Wednesday, said Young.

The collision shunted the truck's cab and the crane attached to it into the tunnel with part of the eight-carriage train, and two chips fell out of the device after the impact.

According to the Hualien District Prosecutors' Office, the assistant is a 26-year-old Vietnamese migrant worker nicknamed "A Hao (阿好)," who has lived in Taiwan illegally for four to five years.

Both Lee and A Hao have been detained on suspicion of causing death by negligence, according to the Hualien District Court on Thursday.

Based on the first chip from the truck's dashcam, data and video chips retrieved from the train's drive recorder, together with other footage and images, Lee was driving the crane truck down an incline from the construction site.

It was then that the truck ran off the dirt road at a turning point, where it became stuck in roadside bushes and its engine stalled, Young said at a TTSB presentation Tuesday.

The findings also showed that excavators and cranes were operating at the construction site before the accident, Young said that same day.

(Yu Hsiao-han and Teng Pei-ju)

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