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Surviving Driver's Shocking Silence

EO Online

By Chen Tairan

Translated by Yang Ziman

Original article: [Chinese]

Fifty hours after the train crash in Wenzhou, the Ministry of Railways has yet to offer an explanation for the cause of the accident. The public, the media and especially the injured passengers and the families of the victims are waiting anxiously for an answer. But there’s one thing that seems to have been ignored: the driver of D3115, one of the trains that collided.

According to the media reports, train D301 crashed into D3115. Pan Yiheng, the driver of D301, died in the accident. But what about the driver on D3115? Is he still alive? What was he doing before and during the crash? What did he do after the accident? Who is this person and where is he now? We don’t have the answer to any of these questions. He simply disappeared.

He was not mentioned in media reports. His name did not appear in the list of the dead and the injured. Even at the press conference held by the Ministry of Railway to explain the cause of the accident, the spokesman didn’t mention this person, let alone allow him to appear in public.

But if you are careful enough, you can still find something about this mysterious figure from the first reports and interviews with people in the crash.

Bao Yongyuan, who works for Literature Federation in Ruian, Zhejiang Province, was on D3115 when the crash took place. When he was interviewed by CCTV, the state-run media in China, via the phone, he mentioned some details: he was videotaping the passengers helping one another after the accident with his own camera when that “mysterious figure” appeared. Bao recalls: “I heard someone asking me ‘Do you want me to lose my job? I’m the driver of the train.’” Then the driver received a phone call, which he said was from his supervisor. He started crying as he spoke into the phone. He said to the passengers: “The train behind ran into my train. It was not my mistake.” Witnesses said he was in a daze.

Bao’s comments to CCTV prove that the driver survived in the accident. We need to find him and hear his explanation because he is a critical witness for the investigation of the accident.

The official explanation of the Ministry of Railways is that D3115 stopped after it was hit by lightning on the section of the track where the accident took place i.e. D3115’s unexpected stop caused the collision. Therefore, the driver of D3115 has to speak up about whether he had contacted the coordinator or the driver on the train behind, or, in the event that the usual communication systems were down, whether he followed the emergency procedure set out by the Ministry of Railways. (The 360th article of the 2007 railway operation regulation says that a train is stationary on the track there must be a sign 500 meters behind to warn the coming train to stop.)

Moreover, a technician in Shanghai Railways Bureau, told the media on Sunday said that there were no problems with the train.  Signals and drivers may also have led to the crash.

As a result, for the sake of the dead driver from the other train as well as people on that train, the driver on D3115 needs to tell his story, describing, for instance, the condition of the train before the accident, its communication system, its controlling mechanism and its signals. Only when the driver has offered clear answers to these questions can we know the reason behind the tragedy.

This isn’t just a necessary mark of respect to the victims of the accident, is should can also provide peace of mind for the general public anxious to find out the truth.

Where on earth is this driver?

It should not fall upon the public to locate him. It’s the responsibility of the Railways Bureau and the Passenger Department. The Ministry of Railways should give at press conference at which the driver can answer questions.

If all the necessary information is disclosed, it will help to explain the cause of the accident and who should be responsible. Such transparency relieves the public panic about railway safety. A comprehensive picture will only come gradually, but the testimony of D3115 driver is one of the most critical steps.

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