Taiwan steps up probe into train accident; seeks arrest warrant for construction site manager

Taiwan has sought an arrest warrant for a construction site manager whose truck is believed to have caused a train accident in which at least 51 people died.

The crash, Taiwan’s worst rail accident in seven decades, occurred after an express train hit a truck that had slid down an embankment next to the track from a construction site.

Preliminary assessments showed that the truck fell from a position above the railway, according to the Transportation Safety Board.

Investigators suspect that the driver of the truck, who wasn’t in it when the crash took place, didn’t engage the hand brake before parking the vehicle at a work site servicing a separate rail line on a hill adjacent to the tunnel, the Taipei Times reported.

The train was carrying almost 500 people on its way from Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, to Taitung on the east coast, when it derailed in a tunnel just north of Hualien.

Yu Hsiu-duan, head of the Hualien prosecutors office, told reporters late on Friday an arrest warrant had been sought and that was now being handled by the court system.

“To preserve relevant evidence, we have several groups of prosecutors at the scene and are searching the necessary places,” she said.

Workers on Saturday began moving the back part of the train, which was relatively undamaged having come to a stop outside the tunnel, down the track and away from the site of the accident.

The more heavily damaged sections of the train are still mangled inside the tunnel.

The government has declared flags should be flown at half-staff for three days in a show of mourning.

The accident happened at the start of a long holiday weekend and the train was packed with tourists and people returning home.

The last major train derailment in Taiwan was in 2018 and left 18 people dead on the same eastern line.

That crash was the island’s worst since 1991, when 30 passengers were killed and 112 injured after two trains collided in Miaoli.