Coaster in fatal crash overdue for inspection

Kyodo

Anticipating a busy holiday season, the operator of the Expoland amusement park decided to put off a scheduled inspection of the roller coaster that derailed and killed one woman Saturday, investigators and Expoland officials said Wednesday.

Immediately after the accident, a lack of space was cited as the reason for delaying the inspection. Expoland, in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, typically inspects the attraction by disassembling the equipment every January and February.

But this year, the servicing facility for the Fujin Raijin II coaster was housing tools and equipment for three new attractions planned for the park’s 35th anniversary in March, according to the investigators and officials.

A new warehouse was completed in March, freeing the servicing facility for use. But the operator decided to put off inspections until mid-May because of the busy school break and Golden Week periods.

The investigators said they are looking into the possibility that the decision to delay inspections may have resulted in overlooking signs of a potential equipment defect that caused the accident.

Yoshino Kogawara, 19, who was in the second car of the six-car coaster, was killed and 19 others were injured in the accident Saturday. The operator said the derailment was caused after the axle that locked the car to a unit of five wheels broke.

Company officials’ accounts of the accident have been found to contain errors, including the position of the axle that broke.

Initially, the officials said it broke at the point where it attached to the wheel unit, but investigators found it was broken at the point where it was attached to the vehicle.

It was earlier reported that the officials also said the axle break occurred near the accident site, well into the course of the ride, but part of the broken axle was found much closer to where the ride started.