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(LEAD) Police raid Seoul Metro again over train collision

2014/05/06 19:55

SEOUL, May 6 (Yonhap) -- Police raided three offices of Seoul Metro and a private contractor on Tuesday as part of their widening probe into the cause of last week's subway train collision that left more than 230 people injured.

Investigators stormed into the headquarters of Seoul Metro, its annex in central Seoul and a machine room in Euljiro Station of Subway Line 2 as well as a private company in charge of entering signal data to seize documents, work logs and data on signal changes, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said.

The raid is part of an ongoing investigation into the incident in which a moving train rammed into the rear of another that had stopped at Sangwangsimni Station on Subway Line 2 on Friday afternoon, leaving 238 passengers with minor injuries.

After Seoul Metro said a signal failure was the cause of the incident, police on Saturday searched the three offices of Seoul Metro to confiscate work logs, driving records and video footage.

Investigators search a machine room of Seoul Metro to confiscate documents in connection with a train collision on May 6, 2014, after the subway operator said a mechanical malfunction has caused the incident. (Yonhap)

Investigators search a machine room of Seoul Metro to confiscate documents in connection with a train collision on May 6, 2014, after the subway operator said a mechanical malfunction has caused the incident. (Yonhap)

According to police, a Seoul Metro employee told investigators that he detected a signal error 14 hours before the accident but didn't take any corrective action.

The subway's operator said the automatic train stop (ATS) system at the station failed to work properly. The ATS, designed to keep a safe distance between trains, is supposed to activate when trains are within 200 meters of each other, but it didn't function properly at the time of the incident.

An investigation showed that the signals first malfunctioned last Tuesday, when Seoul Metro updated its signaling system on Line 2. But officials and drivers hadn't been aware of the problems because trains hadn't come close to one another at stations until the accident on Friday, Seoul Metro said in a briefing.

The following train was traveling at 68 kilometers per hour before the driver applied an emergency brake, and it rear-ended the stationary train at 15 kilometers per hour, city officials said.

"The employee found an error at around 1:30 a.m. on Friday, but he just dismissed it as a usual one," said Baek Kyung-heum, an officer at Seoul's Seongdong Police Station in charge of the investigation, adding that "more investigation is needed to what the subway officials meant by the 'usual' error."

   "The Seoul Metro should have checked what caused the problems and input new data to bring the new signal system back to normal," he said.

Subway Line 2 is the busiest route of the capital city with a population of about 10 million people. In 2012, 752 million passengers rode Line 2, the most among all other lines, according to the latest data.

The accident caused by human error was another blow to South Korea, which is still reeling from a ferry tragedy on April 16 that has so far left 302 people dead or missing. The 6,825-ton Sewol carrying 476 people sank off South Korea's southwest coast, sending the nation into grief and shock. A total of 174 people have been rescued.

ejkim@yna.co.kr

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