National

Driver of Keikyu train says he used emergency brakes but couldn't avoid fatal collision

Kyodo, JIJI

The 28-year-old driver of a Keikyu Corp. train that collided with a truck and derailed Thursday in Yokohama said he saw a light warning him of an obstacle in the train’s path and immediately applied the emergency brake, but that the train was unable to stop in time to avoid a crash.

As the obstacle detection device at the crossing was functioning correctly, police are investigating whether the train driver applied the brakes appropriately.

On the section between Kanagawa-Shinmachi and Nakakido stations, trains normally travel at a speed of 120 kph (75 mph), according to Keikyu officials. A train running at that speed would travel up to 600 meters until it comes to a complete stop after the emergency brake is applied.

The warning device is supposed to set off signals located 10 meters, 130 meters and 340 meters away from the crossing. The light at 340 meters is visible 600 meters from the crossing.

The truck in the collision was pushed for about 60 to 70 meters along the tracks upon impact, killing the 67-year-old truck driver and injuring 35 people.

The collision caused the first three carriages of the eight-car express train to derail. It is believed the truck, driven by Michio Motohashi, got stuck on the tracks before the crash.

On Friday, the Kanagawa Prefectural Police searched the office of a logistics company in Katori, Chiba Prefecture, where Motohashi worked, in connection with the accident.

Police said the truck driver appeared to have approached the crossing from a road he was unfamiliar with, deviating from his normal route.

Motohashi apparently struggled to make a right turn to enter the crossing from a narrow side road, with video footage taken by a security camera near the site showing him repeatedly turning the steering wheel of the 12-meter-long truck and moving it backwards and forward, a Keikyu official said.

A crossing barrier installed at the site hit the back of his truck as he was struggling to make the turn, but Motohashi continued driving the truck onto the crossing and became trapped on the tracks, the official said.

The transport company said Motohashi was transporting fruit from Yokohama to Narita. The side road was not a part of the route the company had instructed him to take.

The express train from Aoto Station in Tokyo to Misakiguchi Station in Kanagawa Prefecture was carrying about 500 passengers.

Keikyu is aiming to resume services in areas affected by the crash by Saturday morning, company officials said.

On Friday, Keikyu stepped up recovery efforts, bringing in a large crane to move the derailed and tilted carriages at the crossing, located near Kanagawa-Shinmachi Station.

The train operator had initially sought to resume services by Friday evening’s rush-hour period, but the removal of the carriages has required more time than expected, they said.

With Keikyu’s train services canceled between Keikyu-Kawasaki and Yokohama stations, people were forced to take detours using other train lines.

“I don’t know how long it will take to get to school and I could be late,” said a 17-year-old high school student.

“I think it will take three times longer than my usual commuting time,” said Keiko Matsushita, 53, noting that substitute trains were crowded.

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