National

Families and survivors mark 11th anniversary of deadly train wreck in western Japan

Kyodo

Survivors and relatives of victims marked Monday the 11th anniversary of the train derailment in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, that killed 107 people.

West Japan Railway Co., better known as JR West, held a memorial ceremony attended by about 900 people at a municipal facility not far from the accident site.

“Each and every one of our employees will participate in the continued efforts to maintain a safe service,” JR West President Seiji Manabe said at the ceremony.

A rush-hour commuter train on the Fukuchiyama Line derailed after entering a curve far faster than the maximum permitted limit, flew off the rails and crashed into a condominium building at around 9:18 a.m. on April 25, 2005. The accident left 106 passengers and the driver dead, and 562 other passengers injured.

The nine-story building the train crashed into has been undergoing construction work since January to preserve the accident damage, but work was suspended Monday to allow visitors to offer flowers and prayers.

The preservation work covers only the bottom four stories and was started after JR West solicited input from the families of the victims. However, some have called for the entire building to be preserved, while others say it should be demolished entirely.

The anniversary followed JR West’s introduction of a new system earlier this month in which its employees are no longer punished for mistakes. After the accident, the railway was criticized for its corporate culture, in which workers could come in for harsh sanctions if they committed errors. The driver of the train that crashed was believed to be speeding because it was running behind schedule and he hoped to avoid punishment.

The anniversary also came two days after some of the victims’ families launched a group to lobby for legislation making corporate bodies criminally punishable.

Among individuals indicted over the case, former JR West President Masao Yamazaki’s acquittal was finalized in 2012 after he was charged with professional negligence resulting in death and injury.

Three other former chiefs were also found not guilty following mandatory indictment under the prosecution inquest system, prompting a team of court-appointed lawyers acting as prosecutors to appeal to the Supreme Court.

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