Riders recount deadly roller coaster accident

Violent shaking, silence, then intense pain

Kyodo

Fellow riders aboard the roller coaster involved in a fatal weekend accident at the Expoland amusement park in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, recounted Monday the moment their experience with contrived terror turned real.

All remember the terrible shaking that accompanied Saturday’s accident, when Yoshino Kogawara, 19, was killed. The car she was riding, the second from the front on the Fujin Raijin II standup roller coaster, derailed and hit a guardrail.

A 25-year-old man from Fukui Prefecture, in the car behind the one carrying Kogawara, said he started to feel strong vibrations and hear loud noises when the coaster was about halfway through the 1,050-meter course.

Seconds later, he felt the vibrations grow even stronger as pieces of the coaster began to fly off. “I shouted to myself, ‘Hey, something’s got be wrong,’ ” said the man, who asked not to be named, and identified himself only as an office worker from Fukui.

When the roller coaster finally came to a halt, all the noise and vibration stopped — only to be replaced by pain.

“I couldn’t even say a word because my whole body was in pain. I think other riders felt the same way. I didn’t hear any sound,” he said.

He said the first human voice he heard was that of a woman calling for Kogawara: “Yotchan ga inai.” (“Yoshino isn’t here).”

Kogawara’s body was found between the guardrail and the roller coaster.

Another witness, a 45-year-old man who also asked not to be named, said he and his two daughters narrowly escaped death by boarding the first car, instead of the second.

The man said that it was Kogawara’s group that offered the first car to his family when they were waiting in line for their ride.

“I have mixed feelings because we would have been the victims if we were in the second car,” he said.

Sunday evening, Kogawara’s body was taken to her home in Higashi Omi, Shiga Prefecture. Her family and friends greeted the coffin in tears.

Expoland officials on Monday visited Kogawara’s home to offer condolences.

Yuji Hirano, Kogawara’s supervisor at her company, said he was at a loss as to how to react to her death. “She was very enthusiastic about giving instructions to new employees” who joined the company this April, he said.

According to Hirano, Kogawara began to work in April 2006 after graduating from high school. On Saturday, Kogawara visited Expoland with five colleagues, all about the same age, he said.