• Kyodo

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The Osaka District Court on Thursday acquitted two West Japan Railway Co. employees and handed suspended sentences to three others in connection with a 2002 accident in which a train hit and killed an ambulance crew member and injured his partner while they were trying to rescue a boy hit by an earlier train.

The court found Kazuyuki Baba, 44, chief of JR West’s Shin-Osaka train operations center, and Keiichi Kaneda, 35, another supervisor, not guilty.

The court sentenced Takechiyo Matsuda, 44, deputy commander at the operation center, and Shunji Harada, 54, a JR Amagasaki Station employee, to 18 months in prison, and Hiroyoshi Ishiura, 28, a supervisor, to one year in prison for professional negligence resulting in death and injury. The trio’s sentences were suspended for three years.

Prosecutors had demanded 18-month prison terms for Baba, Matsuda and Harada, and one-year terms for Kaneda and Ishiura.

Presiding Judge Hiroyuki Nakagawa said Baba was not obliged to monitor the accident site because he was handling another accident at the time, and thus could not be held responsible.

Regarding Kaneda, Nakagawa said he did not neglect his duty because he had ordered Ishiura to check on the safety situation.

However, it was Ishiura who failed to recognize a key request from a train operator and failed to convey the information concerning the rescue site to Kaneda, according to the court.

Nakagawa ruled that Matsuda, Harada and Ishiura were guilty as they had failed to confirm the site was safe for the ambulance workers, believing that other JR West employees would take measures to ensure their safety.

“The degree of their breach of duty is extreme and they are subject to strong criticism for this,” Nakagawa said.

The judge also criticized JR West’s security control system, saying, “The company’s policy of placing too much emphasis on early normalization of train schedules can also be held into account for the occurrence of such an accident.”

In the Nov. 6 accident, Yoshio Nakazawa, 28, was killed and his coworker, Hiroaki Hirai, 31, was seriously injured when they were hit by a train in Osaka’s Yodogawa Ward between Tsukamoto and Amagasaki stations on the Tokaido Line.

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