Asia

Sympathy for overworked Taiwan man who ploughed into Ferraris

Yellow Ferrari Image copyright New Taipei City Police Department
Image caption The damages are not covered by Lin Chin-hsiang's car insurance policy

A young Taiwanese man who dozed off in his car and crashed into three Ferraris got the shock of his life when he was told it would cost 12 million Taiwan dollars ($390,000; £310,000) to pay for the repairs.

But a public outpouring of support and donations to help him pay what at first seemed an insurmountable sum has stunned the 20 year old.

Lin Chin-hsiang's predicament has gripped Taiwan and the response from the public reflects growing dissatisfaction with the island's widening wealth gap, which has left many low-income families like Mr Lin's struggling to make ends meet.

The young man from a single parent family dropped out of college earlier this year to help his mother at the family's shop that sells incense and gold paper money (burned during worship) in New Taipei City. His father died from illness a few years ago.

He works nightshifts at a barbecue restaurant and, after finishing at 03:00 on Sunday, he returned home to find his mum not feeling well, and so decided to help her deliver an order to a nearby temple in time for a ceremony.

It was around 05:40 in the morning when, exhausted from working all night, he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into the Ferraris.

They were among four luxury cars that belonged to a group of friends who were meeting up before a scenic drive. The owners were standing near the vehicles and no-one was injured.

Image copyright New Taipei City Police Department
Image caption Lin Chin-hsiang was helping his mother with an early morning delivery after an overnight shift at a restaurant

"I thought: 'Oh no, I've gotten myself into a big mess.' I was really worried about bringing trouble to my mother and having to pay so much money. I wanted to help her, but made things worse" Mr Lin told the BBC on Wednesday.

Police said he had not been drinking alcohol and had a clean driving record.

Local media contacted luxury car dealerships and repair shops to calculate that the repair bill would be 12 million Taiwan dollars.

What happened next was something Mr Lin and his family, trying to figure out how they could pay such a huge sum, had not expected.

Dozens of people called the local police station handling the accident and offered to donate money to help pay Mr Lin's repair bill or his legal fees. Some of them even turned up at the family's shop - a shack made of sheet metal, which also serves as their home.

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"I'm really grateful to everyone who has offered to help and who has come here to encourage me. Some people even drove up from central Taiwan and asked me where they can donate money. Some spent a long time looking for our shop, some are not in good situation, but they still gave money," he said, sounding overwhelmed by what has happened.

"Some people gave 5,000 ($160) or 10,000. They just said 'In the future, you just have to help society.'"

Image copyright New Taipei City Police Department
Image caption The Ferrari owners were going on a scenic drive together

The local authorities have asked people who want to help Mr Lin to direct their funds to an official account.

More than 100 donations have been made - the smallest equal to about $4 and the largest almost $6,500. In total 740,000 Taiwan dollars ($24,000) have already been raised.

The college Mr Lin dropped out of has meanwhile invited him to return. He was in his last year of middle school when his father died. He has an older brother who is working and a sister in high school.

Since the story hit the news, some Taiwanese social media users have called on the Ferrari owners to forgive Mr Lin and not demand money from him, given his circumstances.

One owner, however, has publicly said that he worked hard to be able to buy the car and would like to be compensated for the damage.

Mr Lin says the Ferrari owners have been kind and have not insisted he pay the bill all at once. They have instead suggested he could start eventually paying in instalments while they consult their insurance companies on how much the policies will cover.

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With a monthly salary of 35,000 Taiwan dollars ($1,136), it would take Mr Lin 28 years to pay the full cost of the repairs. His family's vehicle insurance policy only covers injuries not damages.

But he insists that covering the cost is the right thing to do.

"I'm really sorry to have hit their cars, really sorry. It wasn't intentional… Even though it will take a long time, I committed a wrong. I should still pay for it."

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