• Kyodo

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Police searched the offices of the operator of the Expoland amusement park in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, and other locations Sunday, the day after a roller-coaster accident in the park killed a woman and injured 19 other people.

The police mobilized around 70 officers to carry out the search on suspicion of negligence resulting in death and injuries. They also investigated the site of the accident.

Expoland usually disassembles roller coasters in January or February to check if any cracks have been caused inside vehicle components by using ultrasonic and magnetic wave devices, according to company officials. This year, however, the annual checkup had been put off until May 15, after the Golden Week holiday period, because of a lack of space needed for disassembling, they said.

A company official told a news conference Saturday the accident was caused by a broken wheel axle. The company’s inspection system, including regular checks before the start of daily operations, is expected to be scrutinized by investigators.

Expoland said Sunday it will close the park until Thursday for comprehensive checks on equipment in the park.

In the accident, which took place at around 12:50 p.m. Saturday, the second car of the six-car Fujin Raijin II stand-up roller coaster derailed and hit an emergency-walkway handrail, according to police investigators.

Yoshino Kogawara, a 19-year-old company employee from Higashiomi, Shiga Prefecture, who was in the second car, died and her 20-year-old friend, Sayuri Furukawa, from the town of Toyosato in the same prefecture, was seriously injured. Eighteen other people sustained minor injuries, the police said.

Investigators found that the axle that locks the left unit of five wheels on the second car was broken. Expoland said that when the axle broke, the wheel unit dislodged, allowing the car to tilt toward the left and hit the handrail bar.

The ride, which is designed to carry up to 24 people standing and reaches a top speed of 75 kph, had 18 women and four men aboard when the accident occurred in the latter half of the 1,050-meter run.

Expoland opened in 1972 as part of the Expo Park, which was built at the venue where Japan hosted the World Exposition in Osaka in 1970.

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