Thu, May 24, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Pingtung County derailment suspect gets life in prison

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lee Tai-an (李泰安), convicted of involvement in a South Link railway train derailment, was sentenced yesterday to life in jail by the Pingtung District Court.

"Lee Tai-an and his brother Lee Shuang-chuan (李雙全), who committed suicide as investigators began suspecting he was involved in the train derailment, conspired to destroy railway infrastructure and murder Chen Hong-chen (陳氏紅琛), the Vietnamese spouse of Lee Shuang-chuan," the Pingtung District Court ruled yesterday.

The court said Chen had been poisoned with a "rare substance" administered by Lee Shuang-chuan while Chen was receiving treatment in a Pingtung hospital after the derailment.

She did not die in the train derailment -- she was murdered, the court said.

The Pingtung District Court found Lee Tai-an guilty of murder, destruction of railway infrastructure, endangering passenger safety and illegitimately collecting insurance payouts after Chen's death.

Prosecutors had asked the court to sentence Lee Tai-an to death, as he has denied any wrongdoing and showed no remorse for his actions.

Lee Tai-an's wife yesterday said they would appeal the verdict with the Taiwan High Court.

The accident occurred on March 17, when an express train traveling from Taitung to Kaohsiung derailed in Pingtung County.

Among the passengers on the train were Lee Shuang-chuan -- a Taiwan Railway Administration employee -- and his wife.

Chen died in the hospital after the derailment, but prosecutors became suspicious after they discovered that Lee Shuang-chuan had taken out a NT$20 million (US$625,000) life insurance policy on his wife, which covered accidental death, a few days prior to the derailment.

Chen was reportedly alive and called for help when she climbed out of the train compartment.

Investigators said Chen had first been injected with Etumine, a strong sedative mainly administered to patients with mental illnesses, followed by snake poison by Lee Shuang-chuan, before she boarded the train. She was injected with a different poison after being admitted to the hospital.

Lee Shuang-chuan was found dead hanging from a tree near his Taitung home on March 23.

Meanwhile, deputy managing director of the Taiwan Railway Administration Frank Fan (范植谷) said yesterday that the administration had already filed for the provisional seizure of Lee's assets following the derailment.

Fan said that the derailment had engendered losses of NT$46.3 million, in addition to fees amounting to NT$370,000.

Additional reporting by Shelley Shan

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