Truck's dashboard camera found at Taiwan train crash site

Investigators inspect the wreckage of a yellow truck that hit the train which derailed in a tunnel north of Hualien, Taiwan, on April 3, 2021.
Investigators inspect the wreckage of a yellow truck that hit the train which derailed in a tunnel north of Hualien, Taiwan, on April 3, 2021.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

HUALIEN - The Taiwanese authorities have located what is believed to be the dashboard camera on a truck that caused a deadly train accident in Hualien County, said Deputy Transportation Minister Chi Wen-jong Sunday (April 4) as the government faces mounting scrutiny over railway safety measures that could have prevented the crash.

Workmen in charge of extracting the now destroyed 408 Taroko Express in Hualien's Daqingshiu Tunnel discovered the dashcam at the mouth of the tunnel, but only one of the two memory cards could be found.

"They've paused all efforts to remove carriage four to look for the other memory card," Mr Chi told reporters, as the dashcam footage could be crucial in unravelling how the truck had rolled onto the tracks.

The train had collided with a construction truck that had rolled onto the tracks from a site located above the tunnel. The first three carriages were destroyed when the train derailed.

The truck's driver Lee Yi-hsiang was taken back to the Hualien District Court after a judge ruled in favour of the prosecution's appeal against his NT$500,000 (S$23,560) bail, deeming him a flight risk. The court ruled Sunday that he be held for two months.

As police showed up on Sunday afternoon to escort him to his detention hearing, he read from a piece of paper to the press, his voice cracking.

"I caused the 408 Taroko Express to have an extremely horrible accident over the Qing Ming holiday, leading to deaths, injuries and lots of public attention. I am deeply regretful for that and extend my sincerest apologies," he said, adding that he would cooperate with the prosecution and police in the investigation.

His apology came after families of the victims, as well as survivors, demanded that he be held responsible for the crash.

"No apology at all... released on NT$500,000 bail? I might as well just give him that money," said a four-year-old victim's great uncle.

In the meantime, the Taiwanese authorities managed to extract the last three carriages of the train, but said there may be more undiscovered remains inside the crushed carriages still in the tunnel.

Hualien's head prosecutor Yu Hsiu-duan said Sunday that the official death count is now at 50.

"It turns out that the remains found on Saturday, believed to be the 51st death, belong to a body already identified by family," said Ms Yu.

Families of passengers who died in a deadly train crash visit the site of the accident to perform Taoist rituals in Hualien, Taiwan. ST PHOTO: KATHERINE WEI

As at Sunday, 48 of the 50 dead have been identified by family, and two bodies remain unidentified.

As questions mounted Sunday over how packed the train was and why there were no fences on that section of the track, Transport Minister Lin Chia-lung offered his resignation to Premier Su Tseng-chang.

But it was not accepted by the government, which said he should remain in place until the results of the investigation are known.

Efforts should now be focused on recovery, said Executive Yuan spokesman Lo Ping-cheng. "This is not the time to discuss resignation yet."

The Presidential Office voiced the same through spokesman Chang Chun-han, who said that President Tsai Ing-wen approves of the minister's efforts and that the topic of resigning can wait.