Hyogo rail accident 'unforeseeable' Japan JR Ex-execs deny negligence in '05 train crash


Hyogo rail accident 'unforeseeable' Japan JR Ex-execs deny negligence in '05 train crash

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Hyogo rail accident 'unforeseeable'

Japan JR Ex-execs deny negligence in '05 train crash


KOBE — Three former presidents of West Japan Railway Co. pleaded not guilty at the start of their trial Friday on charges that they were negligent for failing to take action that could have prevented a 2005 train derailment that left 107 people dead and 562 injured.


Masataka Ide

Shojiro Nanya

Takeshi Kakiuchi

On trial after being handed mandatory indictments under the revised prosecution inquest system, Masataka Ide, 77, Shojiro Nanya, 71, and Takeshi Kakiuchi, 68, told the Kobe District Court the accident was not foreseeable.
The April 25, 2005, crash on JR West's Fukuchiyama Line in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, occurred when the train, exceeding the track speed limit, jumped a sharp curve and slammed into a condominium complex.
It is believed the driver, who was also killed, was trying to make up for lost time to avoid punishment after overrunning a previous stop and having to back up.
The trio's trial, the fourth since the revised prosecution inquest system took effect in 2009, focuses on whether the defendants were aware of the accident risk at the crash site. Scores of trains had plied the curve daily for years without incident.
The three were indicted for professional negligence resulting in death and injury by court-appointed lawyers in April 2010, after a citizen panel overturned an earlier decision by prosecutors not to charge them.
The defendants were specifically charged with neglecting their responsibility to order as a precautionary step the installation at the curve of the computerized automatic train stop system, or ATS, which would have detected that the train was traveling too fast and halted it, although they allegedly should have realized the accident risk the curve posed.
"I cannot help but say it was impossible to assume an accident like this would take place," Ide told the court. Bowing toward relatives of victims of the crash, he offered his first apology, saying, "As a person who was in charge of management at JR West, I am really sorry."
Nanya said, "It was impossible to foresee the risk of an accident." Kakiuchi also said, "I could not foresee the risk of a derailment taking place."
Defense lawyers have argued in pretrial procedures that the derailment was unforeseeable and that no law at the time obliged railways to install the ATS.
The indictment says the former managers could have recognized the risk of an accident partly because JR West had revised the timetable on the line in a manner that made it harder for drivers to run trains on time.
The indictment of the three brings the number of former JR West presidents charged over the case to four. In January, the court acquitted Masao Yamazaki, 69, of the same charges, ruling the derailment was unforeseeable.