Taiwan prosecutors request arrest warrant for suspect in deadly train crash

Taiwanese prosecutors have applied for an arrest warrant for a construction site manager whose truck is believed to have caused a train crash that killed at least 50 people, as authorities warned on Saturday more bodies could be found in the wreckage.

Friday’s crash, Taiwan’s worst railway accident in seven decades, occurred after a high-speed train struck a truck that had slipped down a bank next to the track from a construction site. The manager of the construction site is suspected of having failed to activate the brake properly.

The train was carrying nearly 500 people en route from Taiwan’s capital Taipei to Taitung on the east coast when it derailed in a tunnel just north of Hualien.

The Department of Justice’s Prosecution Department, Lin Jinn-tsun, told reporters on Saturday that prosecutors had approached the court to arrest the chief on charges of causing the death by negligence and forged documents.

“Prosecutors will certainly increase the investigation and understanding of the crimes or other suspects involved in the case,” Lin said.

He told Reuters he expected the court to approve the arrest on Saturday.

Yu Hsiu-duan, head of the Hualien prosecutor’s office, said prosecutors were at the scene and gathered evidence.

Workers on Saturday began moving the rear of the train, which was relatively unharmed after stopping outside the tunnel, down the track and away from the scene of an accident.

The more severely damaged parts of the train remained tangled inside the tunnel, where firefighter Wu Liang-yun said there were probably more bodies.

“We are still carrying out rescue work,” he said.

Forty people remain in hospital, among the 178 reported injured.

President Tsai Ing-wen visited hospitals in Hualien to talk to family members and survivors and thanked ordinary people and non-governmental groups who had come forward to help.

“This shows the good side of Taiwanese society,” she said at a military hospital.

The government has declared that flags will be thrown in half mast for three days in a mourning show.

The accident happened at the beginning of a long weekend. The train was full of tourists and residents who went home for the traditional day of sweeping, when people cleaned the graves of their ancestors.

Taiwan has no domestic travel restrictions as the island has the COVID-19 pandemic well under control, with only a handful of active cases in hospitals.

Before the Hualien accident, Taiwan’s worst train crash occurred in 1948, when 64 people were estimated to have died when a train caught fire.