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Human Error Suspected as 17 Die in Taiwan Train Wreck - 2003-03-02


Taiwan officials questioned the crew of a tourist train that derailed Saturday, killing at least 17 passengers and injured more than 100. As Prosecutors suspect that human error may have caused the mishap.

Investigators are still picking through the twisted shell of the mountain tourist train's fourth car, looking for the cause of the accident.

So far, they say, it appears that human error may be responsible for the derailment.

Those aboard said the narrow gauge train careened down the mountain slope "like a roller coaster" before jumping the tracks on a bridge. The train carries tourists up and down a winding scenic trail to Mount Ali, a famed Taiwan tourist spot.

The Chiayi County chief prosecutor has questioned the train driver, his assistant and the conductor. All three have been released, but officials indicate criminal charges may be filed against at least one of the men.

Officials say the train was not overloaded and had passed a safety inspection before heading up the mountain Saturday morning.

A rescue helicopter loaded with dead and injured from Saturday's train accident crashed as it attempted to lift off. The accident, however, apparently caused no new injuries.

The accident at one of Taiwan's most prominent tourist attractions is prompting fears that efforts to promote tourism to boost the flagging economy could be set back.