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Parents of American killed in Hualien train crash to sue TRA for 'gross negligence'

Parents of Senead Short say interests of TRA 'outweighed safety of people'

Kent Short (left) and Joy Short (right). (Facebook, Cirasmita Chen screenshot)

Kent Short (left) and Joy Short (right). (Facebook, Cirasmita Chen screenshot)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The parents of an American English teacher who perished in the Hualien Train Derailment are taking legal action against the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) for "gross negligence" and to establish a foundation in their daughter's name.

On Monday (May 3), attorney Cirasmita Chen (陳孟秀) posted a statement and video on Facebook issued by the parents of Senead Short, a 24-year-old English teacher who was killed after the derailment of a TRA train last month. In the video, Short's parents, Kent and Joy Short, described their daughter as a person who "exuded enthusiasm and determination for the pursuit of life’s adventures and possibilities, inspiring everyone around her."

However, Kent Short said that this "shining light was taken tragically taken away from us at the age of only twenty-four years." He pointed out that she had only begun a Fullbright scholarship program teaching English in Taiwan in January.

Despite only being in the country for a few months, he said that she had made "meaningful relationships" with her peers and students and was looking forward to working towards her career goals. Her father said that in the future she had planned to continue her graduate studies in international relations and work in international diplomacy, with the long-term goal of becoming an ambassador for the U.S.

Joy Short stated that the TRA is planning on offering NT$15 billion (US$536 million) in compensation to the families of the 49 victims of the accident. However, she expressed concern that in the deadly accident, "the interests of Taiwan Railway appear to have outweighed the safety of the people."

She announced that they will be taking legal action in order to ensure the safety of the railroad's operations and to prevent other such disasters from occurring in the future. Her mother said that although they recognized that the NT$15 to 30 million being offered for their daughter's death is a significant amount, it could "never be considered an appropriate amount for our daughter's life."

Kent Short then cited an investigation report on the Yilan Train Derailment that took the lives of 18 in 2018, which found that it was the result of "excessive speed and [an] inactive automatic train protection system." He questioned whether these issues had been fully addressed or if the railway had implemented recommended measures following a train crash in 1981 that claimed the lives of 30.

He emphasized that they are not motivated by financial gain but would rather have the compensation for "Taiwan Railway's gross negligence" go towards a foundation in their daughter's name that helps people across the globe. Her father asserted that such a foundation would have been what she would have wanted and represented the way she lived her life.

Kent Short closed by expressing their belief that seeking higher compensation from TRA will push the railway to "ensure people's safety." He said that the last thing they want to see is any other parents have to suffer such a tragedy and "forever struggle through the life in pain without one’s beloved."

At 9:28 a.m. on April 2, the Taroko Express No. 408, going from New Taipei's Shulin to Taitung, suddenly derailed as it passed through the Qingshui Tunnel in Hualien County, killing 49 and injuring 200. A preliminary investigation has found that the accident occurred after a construction crane truck had rolled onto the tracks a little over a minute before the train ran into it at 126 kilometers per hour.

To take responsibility for the accident, Transportation Minister Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) resigned from his post on April 20. The TRA was fined NT$300,000 for failing to properly supervise the construction site, and the contractor who drove the truck, Lee Yi-hsiang (李義祥), has been arrested and held incommunicado.

In addition to Short, two other foreign nationals were killed in the accident, including fellow Fulbright recipient Laura Luo and French citizen Charles De Guyenro.

Updated : 2022-05-21 07:11 GMT+08:00