This Train Crash Killed 49 Individuals. It Didn’t Have to Occur.


< img src =""class="ff-og-image-inserted"> A Times investigation discovered that systemic failures at a government company contributed to Taiwan’s worst rail catastrophe in 7 decades.TAIPEI, Taiwan– It appeared at initially like a freak accident.A specialist was browsing a dogleg on a sand-packed road. He had actually been hired to support a high hillside on Taiwan’s east coast– any falling debris might be a security hazard to the trains that hurried by below.At the edge of the

embankment, his truck got stuck. He and another worker tried to pull it totally free, using a cloth strap and an excavator. The strap snapped, and the truck tumbled down the hill onto the railway tracks.About a minute later, Taroko Express No. 408 hit the truck, eliminating 49 individuals and hurting more than 200. “This accident could have been prevented,” a member of the Taiwan

Transportation Security Board stated in an interview.Ritchie B Tongo/EPA, by means of Shutterstock In an immediate, the stunning oceanside slope ended up being the site of Taiwan’s deadliest railway catastrophe in seven decades.The tragedy on that April morning is among several crises that have shaken this island democracy of 23.5 million individuals, which prides itself as a well-managed and accountable society. It has actually weakened confidence in the government at a time when Taiwan has actually had problem with

agency that runs the train system, the Taiwan Railways Administration.A close examination of the crash by The New york city Times, based on interviews with present

and previous authorities, railway workers, specialists and safety professionals, found that the agency struggled with a culture of complacency and weak oversight. Specialists like Mr. Lee were mismanaged, upkeep problems festered, and authorities missed or neglected safety warnings– producing conditions that added to the crash. Rescue workers after the crash. Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images A government adviser told authorities in 2017 that the line on which the crash occurred was an accident waiting to happen.Earlier this year, a local worker for the company two times cautioned about the risk of heavy devices steering around that exact same turn. No one did anything. The authorities are examining whether the firm ought to have done more to follow up, Chou Fang-yi, a district attorney on the case, informed The Times.Mr. Lee needs to never have been awarded the project under the agency’s rules. According to the indictment, he illegally misrepresented his company on the application, using the qualifications of a bigger, more experienced business to qualify for the task. The agency did refrain from doing enough due diligence to discover the problem.

Kang, a member of the Taiwan Transport Safety Board, a government agency examining the crash, stated in an interview. The Taiwan Railways Administration promised reforms after the crash. But in the past, such

pledges have caused little change.Sam Yeh/Agence France-Presse– Getty Images Considering that the catastrophe, Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, has actually promised to address longstanding complaints about the Taiwan Railways Administration, which provided more than 500,000 trips daily before the pandemic.A report by Taiwan’s transportation ministry released on Sunday cited failings in the train agency’s security processes and management of construction projects.The train company stated it was undertaking reforms. In May, it reprimanded 12 workers for “insufficient supervision and management” of the job at the crash site, though none were dismissed.In a written reaction to questions, the agency stated the reprimands were a”caution and a possibility for public servants to review their failure to correctly fulfill their responsibilities.” Past promises to improve have actually had little outcome. Ms. Tsai’s government called for reforms in 2018 after a train crash in the northeast eliminated 18 individuals. Although some suggestions were instituted, structural

and derailments, according to an evaluation by The Times of data from Taiwan’s transport ministry. The mishaps have eliminated 437 people.By comparison, Taiwan High Speed Rail, the newer, public-private high-speed system on the island’s west coast, had no major events throughout the exact same duration.”Usually when there is a mishap, T.R.A.’s action is to hold a conference, talk about, organize a lecture and a workout and tell workers that this is the appropriate procedure,”stated Lu Chieh-shen, who worked at the firm for 38 years and worked as general director from 2016 to 2018.”Then they return to their regular. “A Fatal Crash Restore work, days after the crash.Ritchie B Tongo/EPA,

through Shutterstock On the early morning of April 2, Mr. Lee, the specialist, was not supposed to be working.It was Burial place Sweeping Day, a vacation when individuals honor their ancestors. But he lagged schedule and did not wish to get fined for missing his due date, prosecutors say.He gotten a number of other workers, but there were no outdoors security managers keeping an eye on the website, as federal government rules required.At least two times previously, building and construction cars had actually ended up being lodged on the very same road where Mr. Lee’s truck

. It wasn’t done.Mr. Lee ought to not have been awarded the job in the very first location. Lee Yi-hsiang, who has actually been charged with negligent murder in connection with the crash, often won government contracts in spite of a spotty record.EBC, by means of Associated Press When the Taiwan Railways Administration was looking for specialists to strengthen the slope in 2019,

his 2 companies were ineligible because they did not have experience with that sort of work.So Mr. Lee utilized the license of a bigger company, Tung Hsin Building and construction, to use, though it was unlawful to do so, according to the indictment. In return, district attorneys state, he used the bigger business part of the profits.Contractors and professionals who talked to The Times said the firm regularly

“believes in using inexpensive labor to perform high-risk operations,” said Chen Hong-shan, a professional who has worked on a number of tasks for the railway administration.”This has been the practice for years. ” Rescue workers recovered a body on the day of the crash. Chiang Ying-Ying/Associated Press He added that due to the fact that company budgets frequently allocated too little for safety procedures, contractors needed to cut corners to make tasks profitable, compromising the work.The agency, in its written response, stated that while some contracts were awarded to the most affordable bidder, others went to the “optimum “one. In those cases, the firm said, a specialist’s safety record and experience were choosing aspects. Mr. Lee routinely won contracts despite having a spotty record.In 2009

, one of Mr. Lee’s companies, Yi-hsiang Industry, was blacklisted for a year over procurement

prison for falsifying documents about the development of a task. A hurt traveler was asked to recognize the body of

a member of the family. Annabelle Chih/Reuters Still, beginning in 2013, Mr. Lee was legitimately granted a minimum of 48 contracts, amounting to nearly$10 million, with the railway company and other government entities

, according to an evaluation of procurement information. That total does not include the $4.6 million agreement for the slope reinforcement project.In all, Mr. Lee was granted nine agreements by the railway firm, consisting of the slope project. In each case, his was the most affordable quote, according to the data.Prosecutors have implicated Mr. Lee and 6 others of criminal liability; four were charged with irresponsible homicide. If convicted of all charges, Mr. Lee could confront 12 years in prison.Red Flags Loved ones of the dead mourned near the crash site on theday after the disaster.Ritchie B Tongo/EPA, by means of Shutterstock In 2017, Liao Ching-lung, a

railway security expert and government consultant, was studying video of a 2016 train derailment on Taiwan’s east coast when he saw something worrying: the track was in dreadful condition.Concerned, he

asked for a meeting with transportation ministry authorities.”I told them it was only a matter of time before there was a mishap on the track,” he said.Mr. Liao’s warning was prescient. In 2018, the Puyuma Express, another train run by the railway company, hindered

on that exact same path, called the Northern Loop line, killing 18 individuals.

And the April crash took place on the exact same line.Although an examination into the Puyuma crash by the Taiwan Transport Security Board blamed the motorist for disabling an automated speed caution system, the board’s report also flagged endemic issues at the firm, saying it regularly avoided or postponed repair work and maintenance on cars and tracks in order to keep trains running on schedule.

also pointed out the firm’s failure to provide employees with sufficient devices and security training. The method the agency is arranged”may trigger company issue to be prioritized over railroad security in choice making,” the board warned in its final report, released last year.Investigators for the board told The Times that the company had not thoroughly carried out the modifications that it stated it had. For instance, the firm, in spite of its claims, still has no official, extensive process for reporting maintenance concerns, stated Mr. Li, among the detectives.”They had just accepted the modifications on paper– they did not put them into practice,” said Young Hong-tsu, the safety board’s chairman.After the Taroko Express crash in April, the labor ministry audited 195 ongoing railway agency projects and discovered 306 circumstances of security violations on building and construction websites. They consisted of failure to install protective fencing and to conduct appropriate risk assessments. Work was suspended in 15 cases.Once the crown gem of Taiwan’s transportation network, the railway company is now,

Attempts to raise ticket rates have been obstructed by chosen authorities who feared the political fallout. Fares have gone the same for about 25 years, while costs have risen. Resistance from regional homeowners, as well as authorities desiring to maintain links to their communities, has left the agency encumbered unprofitable routes. And couple of have actually dared to take on the problem of its

security technology to better monitor construction websites. The federal government plans to give more than$ 500,000 to the family of each individual who passed away in the crash.< div data-testid="lazyimage-container"design =" height:344.7777777777778 px"> Chen Yan-yi, 4, and her aunt Chen Yi-chuan in an image taken prior to the crash. Both of them died.Chen Peng-nian Among the families, there are fears that the 49 lives lost on that day have ended up being not a call to action, however another missed chance to cause needed change.Chen Peng-nian, 38, was amongst the hundreds caught in the wreckage. He and his family– his moms and dads, sis and 2 kids

— had remained in the third carriage from the front, on their way to their ancestral house near the city of Taitung.Injured, he searched around in

the darkness till he discovered a smart phone to utilize as a flashlight. He saw his mom holding his son, who was bleeding, and his father nearby.His sis was plunged lifeless on the other side of the car. Only a brief time prior to, he had been taking images of her with his daughter, Yan-yi, who was 4. In one picture, Yan-yi is smiling, wearing a pink and white polka-dot hat with ears. She was tossed from the train and passed away.”They require reform, improvements– I can state all these things, too,”Mr. Chen stated in an interview, describing Taiwan’s leaders.”But what are they in fact doing? I have no concept. “