The owner of a construction truck that caused Taiwan’s worst rail accident in decades broke down in tears as he publicly apologised while being taken away from his home by police.
At least 48 people died and almost 200 others were injured after the vehicle that was “not parked properly” seemingly slid into the path of a train in eastern Taiwan.
It came off the rails in a tunnel just north of Hualien, causing some carriages to violently hit the wall, crushing many passengers inside the mangled train compartments.
Police are now questioning Lee Yi-Hsiang to uncover how his vehicle was able to slide on to the tracks from a nearby construction site on Hualien’s mountainous coast.
The truck’s emergency brake was not properly engaged, according to the government’s disaster relief centre.
Lee, the construction site manager, cried as he was led from his home by police.
Through tears, he said: “I have caused a serious accident on the Taiwan Railway Administrations’ Taroko train number 480 during this year’s Tomb Sweeping Holidays, causing deaths and injuries, to this I express my remorse and my sincerest apologies.
“I will co-operate with the authorities’ investigation fully, and take responsibility.”
Lee was initially granted bail of 500,000 New Taiwan dollars (£12,665), but the country’s Central News Agency reported on Sunday that the decision had been reversed.
The train was carrying 494 people at the time of the incident.
Rescuers initially feared the death toll was 51, but the Central Emergency Operation Centre said it had been revised down to 48 after some of the discovered body parts were found to belong to one individual.
At least 198 people suffered injuries.
Train travel is popular during Taiwan’s four-day Tomb Sweeping holiday, when families often return to their home towns to pay respects at the gravesites of their elders.
Taiwan is a mountainous island, and most of its 24 million people live in the flatlands along the northern and western coasts that are home to most of the island’s farmland, biggest cities, and high-tech industries.
The lightly-populated east, where the crash happened, is popular as a tourist destination, and the railway line is known for its beautiful natural scenery.
Taiwan’s last major rail crash was in 2018, when an express train derailed while negotiating a tight corner on the northeast coast, killing at least 18 people and injuring nearly 200.
In 1991, a collision in western Taiwan killed 30 people and injured 112.