National

Decade after Amagasaki, crash victims can't let go

Kyodo

Survivors and kin of the 107 people killed by the Amagasaki train derailment in Hyogo Prefecture in 2005 turned out Saturday to mark the 10th anniversary of the crash and mourn those lost.

Several people surveyed, however, say they are still unable to move on and may yet sue West Japan Railway Co. for compensation.

“I still often feel fear when I’m riding on a train,” one said.

On April 25, 2005, a rush-hour train was speeding around a curve on the Fukuchiyama Line when it derailed and wrapped itself around the corner of a condominium complex at 9:18 a.m., killing 106 passengers and the driver. Another 562 people were injured.

It was the worst rail disaster in the history of the Japan Railway group, which was created in 1987.

Several executives of JR West stood trial over the disaster, which many blamed on the railway’s tight timetables and suspect training. In the end, public prosecutors only indicted former President Masao Yamazaki, whose acquittal from charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury was finalized in 2012.

Three other former JR West officials also were found not guilty after a rare mandatory indictment carried out under the prosecution inquest system. The court said they could not have foreseen the danger of a derailment caused by a harried driver taking the curve at such excessive speed.

After the acquittals were upheld by the Osaka High Court, a team of court-appointed lawyers acting as prosecutors appealed on behalf of the victims’ kin and the injured.

A Kyodo News survey of survivors and victims’ kin found that nearly 60 percent have been unable to put the experience behind them.

The survey, which drew responses from 64 people, also showed that some of the injured are inclined to start compensation negotiations with JR West. About 55 percent said they couldn’t accept the acquittals.

On JR West’s efforts to address the safety concerns, 48 percent welcomed the measures but 41 percent remained dissatisfied.

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