Crime › 3 former JR West execs cleared of negligence in fatal 2005 derailment - ( J44P44NN )

Friday, September 27, 2013


Three former presidents of one of Japan’s biggest rail operators on Friday were cleared by the Kobe District Court of professional negligence in the deaths of 106 passengers when a speeding train derailed in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, in 2005.

On April 25, 2005, a speeding train on the JR Fukuchiyama Line jumped the tracks on a sharp curve during the morning rush hour at 9:18 a.m. and plowed into a residential tower. The driver and 106 passengers died in the accident, which also left 550 people injured in Japan’s worst rail disaster for four decades.

It was determined later that the driver had been going over the speed limit because he was running late—an offense for which he had been punished once before.

In the aftermath of the crash, four JR West executives were charged with professional negligence—Shojiro Nanya, 72, Masao Yamazaki, 68, Masataka Ide, 78, and Takeshi Kakiuchi, 69. Yamazaki was found not guilty in January 2012.

The designated attorney, who played a prosecution role after prosecutors dropped the case, had demanded a jail term, arguing that Nanya, Ide and Kakikuchi should have anticipated the danger.

The attorney and family members of the crash victims said JR West should have been held accountable for failing to take proper safety precautions such as installing an Automatic Train Stop (ATS) device that can stop a train from traveling too fast. The company’s corporate culture of punishing employees for their mistakes was also harshly criticized.

But the court ruled that the three did not have proper opportunities to recognize the danger and that they were also not legally obliged to install such a device when the accident occurred.

Public prosecutors had stopped short of indicting them, citing a lack of evidence, but a judicial review panel found the decision inappropriate, which led to their indictment in 2010 and the court appointment of a designated attorney.

Japan Today/AFP