YOKOHAMA – An express train collided with a large truck on Thursday in Yokohama, killing the driver of the truck and injuring 33.
The accident occurred at around 11:40 a.m. at a crossing on the Keikyu Line between Kanagawa-Shinmachi and Nakakido stations. The first three carriages of the eight-car special rapid train, which was carrying about 500 passengers, derailed and the truck — which police believe was caught on the tracks before the crash — caught fire, authorities said.
The man killed in the accident, Micho Motohashi from the city of Narita, was a 67-year-old driver of the 12-ton truck who the police said was likely trapped underneath the train.
A train driver and 32 passengers sustained minor injuries, police said.
Train operator Keikyu Corp. said the train, running from Aoto Station in Tokyo to Misakiguchi Station in Kanagawa Prefecture, was traveling at 120 kph right before it applied an emergency brake prior to hitting the truck. The truck was dragged 60 to 70 meters upon impact.
Authorities say that the truck made a right turn onto the crossing but the vehicle could not complete the turn and likely got stuck in between the gates. A 40-year-old man who was in a car on the southern side of the crossing told NHK that he saw people nearby tried to help by pulling up the crossing gate so that the truck could go through, but it was too late to avoid the collision.
Due to the accident, Keikyu’s train services were suspended between Keikyu Kawasaki Station in Kawasaki and Kamiooka Station in Yokohama. Keikyu said it aims to resume services by evening rush hour on Friday, but the schedule could be delayed.
A transport firm in Katori, Chiba Prefecture, said the truck is from its fleet and the driver was carrying fruit from Yokohama to Narita.
“I thought I was going to die,” said a 23-year-old man who managed to escape through a window of the train’s first carriage. He said he heard another man yell, “Watch out!” before the impact.
A plume of black smoke could be seen rising into the air after the accident and the first car of the train was lifted off the tracks. The red carriage leaned precariously over a parallel track with its front windows shattered.
The truck was carrying 660 cases of a citrus fruit, which was scattered along the tracks and elsewhere. Metal poles next to the tracks were badly bent.
“I heard what sounded like an explosion, the ground rumbled, and the glass windows of my house shook,” said Mika Fujita, 59, who lives in the area.
Fujita saw a man who said he managed to escape from the first train car. “I can’t stop shaking from the massive impact,” she quoted the man as saying.
Fujita also said she saw a woman talking on her mobile phone while sobbing uncontrollably.
The train was bound for Keikyu’s Misakiguchi Station in the city of Miura in Kanagawa Prefecture, after starting at Keisei Electric Railway Co.’s Aoto Station in Tokyo’s Katsushika Ward.
The government set up a liaison office at the Prime Minister’s Office to oversee the response to the accident, while the Japan Transport Safety Board dispatched railway accident investigators to the site. The Kanagawa Prefectural Police department is also investigating.
In September 2012, a Keikyu express train ran into a mudslide in Yokosuka and derailed, leaving more than 50 people injured. Another train operated by the company was also involved in a mudslide-related derailment in April 1997, injuring 19.
The Keikyu Line runs through Tokyo and neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture, carrying passengers to and from Haneda Airport. Originally founded in 1898, it was established as Keikyu Corp. in 1948. The firm also operates bus companies and hotels.
In December 2005, a train on East Japan Railway Co.’s Uetsu Line in Shonai, Yamagata Prefecture, derailed and partly rolled over, killing five passengers and wounding 33 people.
In April 2005, a train on West Japan Railway Co.’s Fukuchiyama Line derailed in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, killing 107 people and injuring 562.
Past major rail accidents
The following is a chronology of major rail accidents in Japan over the last two decades.
- March 8, 2000: The last car of a train on the Hibiya Line of the Teito Rapid Transit Authority, the predecessor of Tokyo Metro Co., derails and slams into an oncoming train near Nakameguro Station, killing five and injuring 64.
- Dec. 17: Trains on the main Echizen Line of Keifuku Electric Railroad Co. collide head-on in Matsuoka, now part of Eiheiji, Fukui Prefecture, killing one of the drivers and injuring 27 people.
- June 24, 2001: Keifuku trains on the main Echizen Line collide in Katsuyama, Fukui Prefecture, injuring 25 people.
- July 18, 2003: An express train on Kyushu Railway Co.’s Nagasaki Line derails after hitting a stone in Isahaya, Nagasaki Prefecture, and partly overturns, leaving 37 people injured.
- April 25, 2005: A rapid service train on West Japan Railway Co.’s Fukuchiyama Line derails in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, after entering a bend when traveling well above its maximum permitted speed. It left the tracks and crashed into a condominium building, killing 107 people and injuring 562.
- Dec. 25: An express train on East Japan Railway Co.’s Uetsu Line in Shonai, Yamagata Prefecture, derails and partly rolls over, killing five passengers and wounding 33 people.
- March 1, 2007: A train on Hokkaido Railway Co.’s Sekihoku Line collides with a trailer truck on a railroad crossing in Bihoro and derails, injuring 51 people.
- Sept. 25, 2012: A Keikyu Corp. rapid service train runs into a mudslide caused by heavy rain in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, leaving over 50 people hurt.