Driver involved in Puyuma derailment sentenced to 4.5 years in prison

10/18/2021 06:53 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, Oct. 18 (CNA) The driver behind the derailment of a Puyuma Express train in Yilan in 2018 that resulted in the deaths of 18 people and injured more than 200 was sentenced to four years and six months in prison for negligent homicide by Yilan District Court Monday.

Meanwhile, two Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) supervisors were found not guilty in the case, the district court said.

The ruling can be appealed.

The derailment occurred on Oct. 21, 2018 at 4:49 p.m. when Puyuma Express No. 6432 entered a curve near Xinma Station in Yilan County.

According to the court, the driver, Yu Chen-chung (尤振仲), should be held responsible for the derailment because he breached TRA operation rules by switching off the automatic train protection (ATP) signaling system, which was designed to automatically slow down the train when it exceeded the speed limit, causing it to travel at well over the speed limit.

Yu did not switch the ATP back on again, even though he was told that the unstable power supply on the train was likely related to problems with air compressors and not the ATP.

The train was traveling at 141kph when it approached a bend near Yilan's Xinma Station, where the speed limit for the express train was set at 75kph, the court said.

Although the deadly accident was caused by Yu's gross negligence, he denied the charges showing no remorse, the court said, it therefore decided to sentence him to four years and six months in jail.

Meanwhile, TRA said in a statement issued Monday it respects the court's ruling and promised to complete the ongoing upgrade of its safety management system by the end of this year.

In order to ensure a high level of railway traffic safety, TRA is carrying out reforms to improve general safety, the agency added.

It is also introducing a safety management system (SMS), which provides a systematic approach to managing safety within the organization and will be completed by the end of this year, TRA said.

Since the accident, TRA has amended its management guidelines and improved its personnel assessment mechanism, it added.

TRA introduced the improvements based on a total of 27 recommendations made by the Taiwan Transportation Safety Board in October 2020 for improvements in organizational, maintenance and operational management, as well as train system design, as a supplement to the Executive Yuan's investigation report on the accident.

Also Monday, Tung Hsiao-ling (董小羚), who lost eight members of her family in the accident, said that the court's decision showed it was shifting responsibility onto the driver.

Tung, who heads a self-help association for families of victims, said she will call a news conference on Thursday where she will be accompanied by an attorney, after receiving the court's written judgment in full.

Meanwhile, the Taiwan Railway Labor Union said in a statement issued Monday that everybody involved in the accident who had done wrong should take responsibility for their mistakes, including TRA.

As a result of the court ruling, grassroots employees at the TRA will conclude that responsibility for systemic problems at the agency has been shifted to frontline workers involved in the case.

(By Wang Shu-fen, Chang Hsiung-feng, Worthy Shen and Evelyn Kao)

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