• Kyodo

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A commuter train on the JR Kansai Line hit and killed two men and a woman in what appears to have been a multiple suicide near a train crossing in Yao, Osaka Prefecture, early Saturday.

The three were crouching on the tracks and made no attempt to move out of the way of the six-car local train, bound for Nara with about 600 passengers aboard, according to officials of West Japan Railway Co. (JR West).

The three were later identified as Katsuyuki Nishihira, 61, a janitor, his wife, Akiyo, 69, and Akiyo’s brother, Masayoshi Kawasaki, 81. The couple lived in Yao, while Kawasaki was a resident of Fujiidera in Osaka.

Police have concluded the three committed suicide after they found a suicide note written by Akiyo at the couple’s home. “We have decided to opt for death after thinking over and over about what to do,” the note read.

According to people close to the three, Akiyo had been distressed as she was having trouble repaying loans from an unlicensed moneylender. She initially borrowed 10,000 yen, but exorbitant interest rates caused the debt to balloon, forcing her to borrow from other lenders and acquaintances, they said.

A woman who had advised Akiyo about repaying the money asked police to search for the couple late Friday after finding the note.

The incident took place shortly after midnight near a train crossing about 800 meters from JR Yao Station.

JR West officials said the train was about 130 meters away when the driver spotted the three people and tried to stop the train.

The three were hit about 15 meters from the crossing, officials said.

There were no reports of injuries among the train’s passengers, but the train was forced to halt at the scene for 47 minutes. Three other trains on the JR Kansai Line were also delayed, affecting about 1,500 people.

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