Speed control on Taiwan train ‘malfunctioned’ before deadly accident

The disaster was Taiwan’s deadliest rail accident since a 1981 collision that killed 30 people. (Reuters)
Updated 23 October 2018
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Speed control on Taiwan train ‘malfunctioned’ before deadly accident

  • The train came off the rails on a curve while moving at close to 140 kilometers per hour
  • Derailments are not uncommon in Taiwan, but deadly accidents are rare

YILAN, Taiwan: A speed control system was not functioning when a train in Taiwan crashed killing 18 people and injuring 187, in the island’s worst rail disaster in decades, a top investigator said on Tuesday.
It was not clear whether the system, called automatic train protection, had switched off by itself or had been manually disabled before the accident on Sunday, the head of a government-led investigation team, Wu Ze-cheng, said.
“If the train was above the speed limit, the system should automatically slow it down. It seems like the system had failed. Why? We need more investigation,” Wu said.
The train came off the rails on a curve while moving at close to 140 kilometers per hour, above the speed limit of 74 kph, Wu said.
More investigation was needed to determine the cause, he added.
The driver of the train, You Zhen-zhong, 48, was granted bail of T$500,000 ($16,167) on Tuesday after being detained for investigation, the Taiwan Railways Administration said.
You had been treated in hospital following the accident in Yilan county, in the island’s mountainous northeast.
The train data recorder, which tracks speed, among other things, had been sent to prosecutors to be examined.
The disaster was Taiwan’s deadliest rail accident since a 1981 collision that killed 30 people.
The head of the state railway administration, Lu Jie-shen, had offered to resign but that was not accepted by the transport minister, the railway authority said.
Premier William Lai apologized for the accident on behalf of the government.
“People expected the railway to be the safest,” Lai told parliament.
“I apologize to the people on behalf of the Executive Yuan,” he said, referring to the island’s cabinet.
Train derailments are not uncommon on the island, which has rough, mountainous terrain, but deadly accidents are rare.


Student in Trump hat denies mocking Native American activist

Updated 21 min 44 sec ago
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Student in Trump hat denies mocking Native American activist

  • Student Nick Sandmann is seen in the video standing face to face with the Indian activist, Nathan Phillips
  • The footage sparked outrage on social media

A white high school student seen with classmates appearing to confront a Native American Vietnam veteran near the Lincoln Memorial issued a statement on Sunday that video of the incident that went viral gives the false impression that the teens were instigators.
Nick Sandmann, a student from the private, all-male Covington Catholic High School in northern Kentucky, is seen in the video standing face to face with the Indian activist, Nathan Phillips, staring at him with a smile, while Phillips sings and plays a drum.
The footage, shared online by organizers of an indigenous people’s march that took place in Washington on Friday before the incident, shows a group of fellow Covington students surrounding Phillips apparently mocking him.
Phillips recounted in a separate video that he heard the students chanting “build that wall,” during the encounter.
The students, many wearing baseball caps emblazoned with President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, were in the nation’s capital the same day for an anti-abortion rally.
The footage sparked outrage on social media and led the high school to issue a statement condemning the students’ actions and promising an investigation.
But Sandmann, whose statement was tweeted by CNN anchor Jake Tapper late on Sunday, insisted the video was misinterpreted, leading to “outright lies being spread about my family and me.”
He denied acting with any disrespect toward Phillips.
According to Sandmann, his group was waiting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for their bus back to Kentucky when four African American protesters nearby began shouting racially charged insults at them.
With permission from their teacher chaperones, the students responded by shouting “school spirit” chants to “drown out the hateful comments” directed at them.
In the midst of this interaction, Sandmann said, he noticed that a Native American protester — since identified as Phillips — “began playing his drum as he waded into the crowd, which parted for him.”
“He locked eyes with me and approached me, coming within inches of my face. He played his drum the entire time he was in my face,” Sandmann recalled.
“I never interacted with this protester. I did not speak to him. I did not make any hand gestures or other aggressive moves,” Sandmann wrote, adding that he was “startled and confused” as to why Phillips approached him.
Sandmann said he reasoned that by remaining “motionless and calm” he hoped to diffuse the situation.
His account was reinforced, at least in part, by a New York Times report on Sunday quoting Phillips, 64, as acknowledging he had approached the crowd of students in a bid to ease racial tensions that had flared between the mostly white teens and the African American protesters.
“I stepped in between to pray,” said Phillips, an elder of Nebraska’s Omaha tribe and a well-known activist who was among those leading the Standing Rock protests in 2016-2017 against construction of an oil pipeline in North Dakota.
Phillips could not be reached by Reuters for comment over the weekend.