Two KTX bullet trains and a regular train carrying 1,366 passengers between them collided at a train station in Daegu on Saturday. Miraculously only four people were slightly injured and no one died.
An investigative team from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said the accident happened at around 7:14 a.m. as two KTX trains heading in opposite directions collided with a slow train at Daegu Station, derailing 10 KTX carriages and the regular train's locomotive.
The slow train left Daegu Station prematurely while one KTX was still passing through the station en route to Seoul. This caused the KTX to derail and careen into the other KTX that was heading to Busan.
The slow train was carrying 275 passengers, the Seoul-bound KTX 464 and the one headed for Busan 627.
The ministry team concluded that human error rather than equipment malfunction or signal failure caused the crash. It found that the conductor handling the slow train misread the signal and told the train driver to depart, while the driver failed to double check and the overall traffic controller did not inform the driver that a KTX train was passing by on the track it was about to merge with.
A total of 6.3 million people use Korea's railways every day. The KTX travels at 300 km/h, so even minor accident can turn into massive disasters. Rail experts said if the slow train had travelled just one meter further, the collision would have been far worse.
"It appears there were no problems with the signaling system or the trains," one investigator said. "We believe the cause of the accident was a failure by some of the train operators to stay alert."