Contractor and engineer jailed over Taroko train death

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CONTROVERSIAL:
Sentences of up to nearly nine years are likely to be appealed because homicide rather than negligence was more apparent, prosecutors and families said.

  • By Jason Pan / Staff Reporter

Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) supervising engineer Pan Tang-yi (潘堂益) and contractor Lee Yi-hsiang (李義祥) yesterday received the heaviest sentences among those charged in the Taiwan’s deadliest train crash in 70 years.

Lee was sentenced to seven years and 10 months, while Pan was sentenced to eight years and 10 months, for their role in the derailment of a Taroko Express train last year that killed 49 people and injured 200. .

Construction superintendent Lee Chin-fu (李進福) and labor inspector Chang Chi Fu-tsai (張齊富財), both employed by engineering contractor United Geotech Inc (聯合大地工程), were also sentenced. by the Hualien District Court, for negligence causing death. . They received seven years and two months and six years and four months respectively.

Photo: Wang Chin-yi, Taipei Times

CYL Engineering Consulting (中棪工程顧) supervisor Kuo Kuo-chen (郭國振) was sentenced to four years and two months, also for negligence causing death.

Vietnamese migrant worker Hoa Van Hao, assistant to Lee Yi-hsiang, who was charged with negligent vehicle transport safety, was found not guilty.

Hualien prosecutors said they would appeal what they consider a lenient sentence for Lee Yi-hsiang, who they said deserved a longer sentence for fleeing the scene of the incident.

Hoa’s not guilty verdict would also be appealed, they added.

Lawyers representing those killed in the crash and their families said the defendants should have been charged with homicide rather than negligence causing death, adding that they would also press to appeal the sentences.

The accident happened on April 2 last year after a crane truck at a construction site above southbound railway tracks in eastern Taiwan rolled over the tracks at the entrance to the Cingshuei Tunnel in Sioulin Township (秀林) before being hit by an oncoming express train. two minutes later.

A relative of a victim named Chen (陳) said that Lee Yi-hsiang or his assistant could have done something at that time to prevent the accident.

Local media reported that they did not try to inform the TRA before the express train crashed.

“We cannot accept such lenient sentences,” the insider said. “We think the public also feels the same way.”

Transport and Communications Minister Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) said he fully understands the families’ feelings, but will respect the court’s decision.

Safety lapses have happened too often at TRA construction sites, and the TRA needs to reform its safety practices, Wang said.

Before coming to rest on the tracks, the crane truck had come to rest in a sharp turn on an access road near the slope. When site manager Lee Yi-hsiang, owner of Yi Hsiang Industry (義祥工業社), tried to free the truck using a woven belt, the belt broke, sending the truck hurtling the hill and on the rails.

The contractors were carrying out slope stabilization work on behalf of the TRA.

Investigators alleged that Lee Yi-hsiang illegally used a business license from Tung Hsin Construction (東新營造). False papers and other falsified documents were allegedly involved.

Yi Hsiang Industry would not have the qualifications or the capital to conduct slope stabilization projects, prosecutors said.

Lin Chang-ching (林長清), site supervisor and business partner of Yi Hsiang Industry, was charged with violating the Public Procurement Law (政府採購法) and other regulations governing bidding for public projects.

Facing the same indictment, father and son owners of Tung Hsin Construction – Huang Ping-ho (黃平和) and Huang Wen-li (黃文利).

Huang Ping-ho was sentenced to two years and six months, while his son was sentenced to 10 months.

Profits of NT$3.37 million (US$107,291) from their business were confiscated and a fine of NT$1 million was imposed.

Lin received a sentence of two years and eight months, as well as a fine of NT$500,000.

Additional reports by CNA

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