OSAKA — The Osaka District Court concluded hearings Monday in a civil suit filed by relatives of some of the 42 people killed and 614 hurt in a head-on train collision in 1991 in Shigaraki, Shiga Prefecture.A group of 23 plaintiffs, relatives of nine of those killed, demanded a total of 1.14 billion yen in compensation from the Shigaraki Highland Railway Co. and West Japan Railway Co. Other families have settled out of court with the two carriers.The May 14, 1991, accident occurred when a four-car Shigaraki Highland Railway train proceeded past a red stop signal and collided head-on with a three-car JR West special train. Forty-two people were killed and 614 injured aboard the two trains, which were both full due to a world china festival held in the town. The Shigaraki train had standing orders to wait at a siding to meet the opposing JR West train, regardless of signal indication.Shigaraki Highland Railway admitted fault in the accident, but JR West has denied any responsibility, saying its special train was running on schedule. Prosecutors indicted two Shigaraki Highland Railway officials and a signal equipment company official on charges of professional negligence leading to death and injury. The criminal case is still pending before the Otsu District Court in Shiga Prefecture.Some of the plaintiffs of the civil suit said they filed suit because JR West did not face any liability in the criminal suit, although the carrier installed the signal, which was out of order the day of the accident. “The accident of the JR West train, which was believed to be a safe vehicle, was tragic. We will never forget the sorrow of the victims’ families,” said Shunzo Yoshizaki, 65, whose wife died in the crash.
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