Call it bad luck or bad timing. But when a delivery van driver in suburban Taipei fell asleep at the wheel this week, he plowed into not one, not two, but three Ferraris — with total damage estimated at up to $1.9 million.
The response in Taiwan? People began spontaneously donating money.
Lin Chin-hsiang had worked part-time in deliveries since getting a driver’s license in May. His nine hours of work per day, including some at a barbecue restaurant, earned him just $1,135 per month. Early Sunday morning, he had finished work for the night but his mother had some packages that needed delivering. The two live in a tin shack where she makes joss sticks for sale. He headed out in his van.
At 5:40 a.m., he hit the Ferraris, which were parked along the road before the drivers went on an early morning ride. At least one of the cars was a model 488 GTB, which has a base price of about $250,000 but can be considerably more expensive.The damage to the three cars was estimated at anywhere from $390,000 to $1.9 million
Lin, of course, felt terrible. In a phone interview, he said that he was only trying to help his mother, “but I made things worse.”
And then the donations started coming in. A day after the crash, police began getting calls from random people who had heard about the accident from the news and wanted to help. By Thursday, a government office in New Taipei City, the suburban area where Lin lives, reported that it had received the equivalent of $26,400 from 122 people.
“I didn’t put out any requests,” a stunned Lin said. “These donations were all made on their own. I didn’t appeal to them to donate money.”
His accident apparently struck a chord in Taiwan, where there is a large gap between rich and poor. The average annual wage of the richest 5% in Taiwan was $93,000 last year, about 198 times the average for the bottom 5%.
“People felt sympathy,” said Yang Lian-fu, a publisher of local history books in Taiwan. “And they saw the Ferraris as a symbol of wealth in the rich-poor gap.”
The city government seldom gets requests for mass donations for one person in a legal case, said Shih Yu-lee, section chief with the city Social Welfare Department. Donation drives in the city of more than 3 million people normally follow fires or floods, she said.
Lin was insured for deaths and injuries but not for vehicular damage, a police officer on the case said. He’s not suspected of any crime.
“I saw that this guy was 20 years old,” said a donor surnamed Mai, a man from suburban Taipei who paid for a lawyer to help Lin. “He had just gone into the workforce and there’s no way he could handle this matter himself.”
Lin said he contacted the Ferraris’ three owners on Wednesday and they agreed to let him pay for the damage in installments as he felt able. If the donations eventually don’t cover the full repair bill, he said, “I’ll just go back and keep working.”
Jennings is a special correspondent.
Source: latimes.com – Los Angeles Times