Taiwan truck driver jailed in train crash that kills 49

Taiwan truck driver jailed in train crash that kills 49


A Taiwanese truck driver was sentenced to almost eight years in prison on Friday for causing the island’s worst rail disaster in decades, which left 49 dead and more than 200 injured.

The April 2021 crash was caused by a railroad maintenance truck sliding down an embankment just before a packed train passed through the eastern coastal city of Hualien.

The vehicle got stuck in a bush on a nearby road.

Prosecutors said truck driver Li Yi-hsiang, 50, and his assistant tried to extricate it using a cloth strap attached to an excavator, but the attempt failed and instead the vehicle crashed onto the train tracks.

Li’s actions “resulted in heavy casualties and seriously disrupted social order, while inflicting physical and emotional trauma on many victims,” ??the Hualien District Court said in a statement when he was jailed for involuntary manslaughter.

His assistant, a Vietnamese national, was acquitted by the court, which cited insufficient evidence of his involvement in the “core act” of the accident, tying down the truck with the cloth strap that could not support the weight.

According to prosecutors, Li did not contact railway authorities or alert the train attendant after the truck skidded onto the tracks and failed to call the police or 911 after the accident.

A lawyer for the victims’ families promised to appeal the verdict because they felt the sentence was too short, the Central News Agency reported.

Li was part of a contracted railroad maintenance team that regularly inspects Taiwan’s mountainous eastern rail line for landslides and other hazards.

He was working to support a steep slope at the accident site.

The last major train derailment in Taiwan before this incident was in 2018, when 18 people died on the same line.

The train driver at the time was sentenced to four and a half years in prison last year for negligent homicide for speeding and other offenses.

Taiwan’s deadliest rail disaster on record occurred in 1948 when a train caught fire and killed 64 people.

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