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Truck landed on train track just a minute before deadly Taiwan crash

Taiwan's Transportation Safety Board reconstructs accident, releases dramatic footage of impact

TAIPEI : The truck that collided with a Taiwanese express train last week, killing 50 people, slid onto the tracks only around one minute before the accident happened, the government said yesterday, as it released dramatic footage of the impact.

The packed train carrying almost 500 passengers and crew slammed into a truck near the city of Hualien on Friday, causing it to derail and the front and middle parts to crumple.

It was the island's worst rail accident in seven decades.

NOT PROPERLY APPLIED

The truck had slid down a sloping road from a building site onto the tracks just outside a tunnel. Officials suspect the truck's brakes were not properly applied and are investigating the manager of the site.

Dr Young Hong-tsu, chairman of Taiwan's Transportation Safety Board, said they had reconstructed how the truck had ended up on the rails, tracking its movements down the dirt road before it slipped off a bank and landed on the rails, its front end facing the oncoming train.

Dr Young showed recovered footage taken from inside the driver's cabin as he desperately tried to slow down before hitting the truck at the entrance to the tunnel, causing the train to derail.

"There was a little over one minute between when the truck slid to the track and the Taroko Express hit it, according to our initial estimate," he said.

Dr Young said even though the driver applied the brake, the speed of the train - it was travelling at 120kmh - could not be reduced within a few seconds to avoid the collision.

He said it was clear from the train's recording devices that the driver, who died in the crash, had taken the "necessary steps" and "he tried his best in the hope of avoiding a disaster".

Dashcam footage showed the truck suddenly appearing around the corner of a bend, and the train smashing into it and then hitting the side of the tunnel.

Officials said the train would have required a distance of 600m, or 16.6 seconds, to fully stop - but when the truck came into view there was only around 250m, or 6.9 seconds, in which to act.

Lee Yi-hsiang, the 49-year-old truck driver, was remanded in custody over the weekend. Lee was part of a contracted railway maintenance team that regularly inspect Taiwan's mountainous eastern train line for landslides and other risks. - REUTERS, AFP

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