Railway to pay for 1995 fatality

Shinkansen victim's parents win 49 million yen in damages

Kyodo

A district court on Wednesday ordered Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) to pay 49 million yen in compensation to the parents of a teenage boy killed in a 1995 shinkansen accident at Mishima Station on the Tokaido Shinkansen Line.

Yasuo and Nobue Kawarasaki meet reporters at the Shizuoka District Court’s Numazu branch.

“JR Tokai was responsible for taking every possible safety measure to prevent accidents,” said presiding Judge Sachiko Takahashi, of the Shizuoka District Court’s Numazu branch.

The railway operator failed to adequately instruct the station master about the importance of monitoring departing trains and did not install a TV monitor to supervise passengers on the platform, Takahashi said.

On Dec. 27, 1995, 17-year-old Yusuke Kawarasaki boarded the Kodama 475 from Tokyo for his home in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture.

He got off at Mishima in the prefecture to make a quick phone call to his father. But while attempting to jump aboard the train as the doors were about to close, his finger got caught in a door. He was dragged for about 150 meters and was dead when he fell onto the tracks.

The accident was the first passenger death since shinkansen services began in 1964. His parents filed a suit in June 1996, seeking 170 million yen in compensation.

They blamed JR Tokai for failing to take measures to prevent such an accident, while the train operator argued that sufficient precautions had been taken, attributing the accident to the victim’s attempt to board a departing train.

The suit claimed the door sensors aboard zero series train cars do not detect trapped objects measuring less than 1 cm in diameter.

About the same time as the accident, a number of similar incidents were reported, prompting the former Transport Ministry to order JR Tokai to introduce safety measures, the suit claimed, adding that no improvements were made to the door sensors of the zero series.

The presiding judge, however, dismissed this claim, saying JR Tokai was not delinquent in making improvements to the doors.

A summary court has ordered a station officer who was the only employee on the platform to pay a fine of 500,000 yen for failing to supervise passengers properly.

The teen’s parents — Yasuo and Nobue — also filed a lawsuit against top JR Tokai managers, but it was dismissed.