Victims’ remains found on train 2 years after disastrous train derailment

Pieces of human skull, bloodied clothing, and personal belongings of victims were found in the wrecked carriage of a train that stands as a memorial to one of Taiwan’s worst train accidents in a railway park in northern Taiwan today, September 1.

Police investigators and Taiwan Railway Administration staff made the findings during a carpet search of of the train car after a piece of skull was found by a representative of the victims’ families during a visit to the memorial at the Fugang Railway Mechanical Engineering Depot yesterday.

Representative of the group “Taroko’s Tears,” Wang Wei-chun (王薇君), had just laid a wreath of flowers in honor of the victims, during a visit that included Japanese railway safety experts and TRA Director-General Tu Wei (杜微) on Thursday, when she was shocked to notice a piece of victim’s clothing and a palm-sized piece of bone suspected to be part of a skull.

Director-General Tu ordered a thorough search of the carriages, which was carried out by Railway Police investigators Friday morning. Investigators found four more pieces of suspected human skull, pieces of clothing, mobile phones, wallets, and other personal belongings of victims on the train car.

The Taroko Express train No. 408, packed with families bound for Taitung City on the first day of a four-day holiday, derailed and crashed into a tunnel entrance after hitting a truck that had rolled onto the track from a hillside construction site at 9:28 am April 2, 2021. Forty-nine people were killed in the crash, and 202 were injured, making it the worst train crash in Taiwan’s history.

One year later, the two worst-affected train cars were moved to a memorial park in the grounds of the Fugang Railway Mechanical Engineering Depot in Taoyuan City to stand as a memorial to the victims and an education resource for training railway personnel.

A lawyer representing the victims’ families told media that the remains and personal belongings found today came after a thorough search of the first half of the worst affected carriage, Car No. 8 (the leading car at the time of the crash). Members of the victims’ families at the scene of the investigation today appeared angry and hurt, according to news reports.

TRA officials said that they would treat the remains and items found today according to the instructions of the Taoyuan District Prosecutor’s Office.

Minister of Transport and Communications, Wang Kwo-tsai, said today that after the initial search and rescue operation and subsequent investigation into the crash, TRA had taken the train with the principle of preserving the train in its original condition. This indeed was a big oversight and harmful to the victims and their families. “We will make amends and overall improvements in the future,” Wang told media at an impromptu press conference today.

Picture: Railway safety engineers inspect Taroko Train disaster memorial, March, 2023. Taiwan Railway Administration photo.

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