Now We Know: It wasn’t a crash

News media, foreign and domestic, have been erroneously calling Friday’s event in Taiwan a “train crash”.  That’s not what happened.

The train was northbound at 9:30AM local time (UTC+8), on the eastern coastal line near the city of Hualien, along a cliffside.  The west side of Taiwan is mostly flat, more mountainous as you move east.  There is a roadway above the rail line.  A construction crane on the roadway was not parked properly (for lack of a better term) and rolled off the edge, onto the passing train below which then derailed.

This was not a train crash, and those operating the rail line are unlikely to face any backlash.  Several passenger cars were crushed and there are at least fifty dead.  No one I know of planned to take that train, and no one I know is unaccounted for.

This happened Friday morning, the first day of a four day long weekend (Tomb Sweeping Day on 4/3 and Children’s Day on 4/4).  The statutory holidays were moved to Friday and Monday, providing a four day weekend.  It’s likely many families were travelling along the line.

This happened with a TRA train, which travels roughly 80kmh.  This would not happen with the High Speed Rail line not only because the HSR is along the populated west coast, but because the HSR is protected from such events (elevated platforms and tunnels).

The Guardian: Taiwan train crash: dozens dead after express service derails in tunnel

Focus Taiwan: Scene of train crash like ‘living hell:’ Red Cross rescuer

Also from Focus Taiwan:

Crane truck driver questioned by police over fatal train accident

Local police are questioning the driver of a crane truck that is believed to have slid down a hillside and blocked the path of a moving train heading south in Hualien County on Friday, leading to an accident that caused the deaths of at least 48 people.

The driver, surnamed Lee (李), was still being questioned by Chungte police as of 4 p.m. Friday, according to the Xincheng Precinct of the Hualien County Police Department.

Police department commissioner Tsai Ting-hsien (蔡丁賢) said the crane truck was parked on a hillside road close to the construction site of a tunnel for the northbound rail line.

The road hovers above the southbound track, and authorities suspect that the driver parked the vehicle without engaging the emergency brake, Tsai said.


  1. AndrewD says

    This is reminiscent of the Shelby/ Great Heck rail accident. A car driver fell asleep at the wheel,left the road at an overbridge and finished on the tracks. He was hit by an express passenger train with few casualties but the wreckage was then hit by an heavy freight train carrying coal or stone,this caused heavy casualties.