TAIPEI • A train that derailed and killed 18 people in Taiwan was speeding when it flipped off the tracks, a court said yesterday, with the driver suspected of "professional negligence" for switching off a speed control system.
The crash on the popular east coast line injured 187 people on Sunday and left the Puyuma Express train lying zigzag across the tracks in the island's deadliest rail accident in a quarter-century.
The injured driver, identified by his family name Yu, was released on bail yesterday after being interrogated by prosecutors and returned to hospital, where he was being treated for injuries, including a fractured rib.
A statement from Yilan district court, which had reviewed evidence and questioned Yu as part of the bail hearing, said he had admitted to turning off the automatic train protection (ATP) system used to monitor speed due to problems with the train's power supply.
As the train approached Xinma station, the site of the crash, it was travelling at 140kmh instead of the 80kmh speed limit imposed due to a curve in the track, the court said.
Yu said he had turned off the system at an earlier station and had not switched it on again because he had been talking to a rail coordinator, describing the move as "professional negligence".
"As he had turned off the ATP, he did not have the assistance of automatic speed monitoring and braking and should have taken necessary reactive measures, knowing there was a big curve ahead, instead of hitting the brake near the platform that led to the derailment," the statement said.
A spokesman for the Yilan district prosecutors' office Chiang Chen-yu told reporters there had been discrepancies between the driver's statement, evidence collected and witness accounts.
Yu did not comment when asked by reporters outside the court if he turned off the device or was speeding.