A preliminary investigation into the deaths of two railway maintenance workers on Monday showed that they did not see an approaching express train because both were busy at work on the tracks instead of having one look out for potential danger, the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) said yesterday.
Despite the initial findings, TRA Deputy Director-General Lu Chieh-shen (鹿潔身) said that there were still many unanswered questions that needed to be clarified through further investigation.
Lu said that the two workers followed instructions by filing an application to inspect the railway switches and indicated in the report that the maintenance work would not disrupt normal train operations.
The deputy station master at the Longjing (龍井) Railway Station in Greater Taichung also followed standard procedures by reporting to the train deployment officer first prior to approving the maintenance work at 9:18am, Lu said.
The investigation showed that the Tzuchiang-class express train that hit the maintenance workers drove into the station at 9:31am, two minutes later than its estimated time of arrival.
“The train driver said that he saw two people squatting in the middle of the railway tracks about 100m ahead and slammed on the breaks immediately. However, the workers failed to escape in time and were killed at the scene,” Lu said, adding that one of the workers was supposed to be on the alert for any emergency situation.
“It could be that he was helping the other maintenance worker solve a problem, which would explain why both of them were squatting on the railway tracks,” he said. “However, we did not find anything wrong with the railway tracks.”
Lu said that all train drivers are required to inform the deputy station master that the trains are about to enter the station over the radio, which can be simultaneously heard by other workers along the railway route.
He said the deputy station master in Longjing did confirm with the train driver when the train entered the station, and the driver later told the deputy station master that it had hit two people.
“Both maintenance workers had their wireless phones with them, which were retrieved on the railway tracks after the accident. One of them was functioning normally, whereas the other was broken after being hit by the train,” Lu said.
The agency is still investigating why the workers did not hear the message from the station.
While the train driver said he had activated the train whistle when he saw two people on the tracks, Lu said the agency cannot verify his claim.
Prosecutors are now examining all evidence related to the case, Lu said.