Truck driver held over train wreck

JIJI, Kyodo

Police on Wednesday arrested a truck driver for allegedly causing a six-car passenger train to derail the day before in Takasago, Hyogo Prefecture, leaving 15 people injured.

All six cars of the Sanyo Electric Railway Co. train left the tracks.

Keiichiro Endo, 36, was arrested early Wednesday on suspicion of negligent driving resulting in injuries.

The police alleged that Endo drove his 9.6-meter-long car-carrier through the crossing even though there wasn’t enough room on the other side, leaving the truck’s rear end in the path of the oncoming eastbound train.

Endo has admitted to the allegation, police sources claimed.

He has told the police that when his truck was going over the crossing, a car ahead of his vehicle stopped at a red light.

Endo stopped as well, but the rear part of his truck remained inside the crossing and was hit by the special rapid service train.

Yuya Kakudo, the 34-year-old driver of the train, suffered a broken leg. Thirteen passengers on the train and Endo sustained minor injuries.

The train was heading for Umeda Station in the city of Osaka after departing Himeji Station. After the collision, the train continued on for more than 100 meters before stopping.

The motorman told the police that his train was about 50 meters from the crossing when he saw the trapped vehicle. He said he applied the brakes, but it was too late.

About 70 passengers were on the train at the time of the accident. All of those injured were on the front or second car.

The grade crossing and the traffic light are only about 10 meters apart. Traffic is heavy in the area, where there are many houses and factories.

The transport ministry said the crossing gate and security alarm were functioning at the time.

Sanyo Electric Railway, based in Kobe, operates the railway line linking Kobe and Himeji.

Operations between Takasago and Oshio stations were still suspended Wednesday, affecting about 85,000 passengers.