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Truck driver behind 17-vehicle pileup in Taiwan says he was 'dazed'

Driver adds he was not paying attention before colliding with cars in Xin'ao Tunnel

Scene of 17-vehicle pileup in Xin-ao Tunnel on Oct. 24. 

Scene of 17-vehicle pileup in Xin-ao Tunnel on Oct. 24.  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The driver of a gravel truck that caused a multi-vehicle collision told police that he was distracted and did not notice the stationary vehicles ahead of him in time to avoid collision.

He faces charges of negligent homicide (過失致死罪).

The 17-vehicle pileup occurred on the northbound lane inside the Xin'ao Tunnel of the Suhua Highway section of Provincial Highway 9 at around 1 p.m. on Tuesday (Oct. 24). It resulted in one person being killed and 11 sustaining differing degrees of injuries.

On Wednesday (Oct. 25), Transportation Minister Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) said a preliminary investigation by the Highway Bureau determined the accident was caused by a truck driver who was not paying attention to the traffic conditions ahead, per CNA.

The 55-year-old surnamed Chiang (蔣) received minor injuries from the accident. A blood test showed no sign of alcohol, reported FTV News.

Chiang told police that he was "briefly dazed and was not paying attention" and therefore did notice the long line of cars that had come to a stop in front of him. Chiang said that when he did finally notice the traffic jam in front of him, he slammed on the brakes, but it was too late.

In dashcam video from inside a gravel truck, it does not appear to decelerate when it approaches a traffic jam. Even as impact with a stationary car is imminent, the truck continues to maintain its speed and proceeds to plow through a large number of vehicles that also collide with each other before finally coming to a stop about 10 seconds after striking the first vehicle.

Amid concerns the truck had been speeding just prior to the accident, the Yilan Station of the Taipei Motor Vehicles Office said Wednesday that according to GPS data, the vehicle did not exceed the 40 kph speed limit. It added the truck drivet did not have any record of outstanding violations.

However, the company that operates the truck has been issued 18 fines this year, NT$280,000 of which have been unpaid. Two fines were for driving without a license.

Prosecutors plan to charge Chiang with negligent homicide. Prosecutors initially planned to transfer him to the District Prosecutor's Office on Wednesday morning, but they needed to conduct an on-site inspection and forensic examination, so the transfer was rescheduled to the afternoon.

The sole fatality was a 76-year-old man who was crushed when his sedan was sandwiched between two trucks. His wife had recently died from an illness and he was driving with his daughter to bid his former spouse farewell when the accident occurred, reported FTV News.