81-yr-old man charged over woman's death in wheelchair accident on escalator


An 81-year-old man has been charged with negligent homicide in an incident in July, in which a 76-year-old woman died after a wheelchair fell on her as she was using an escalator at a furniture store in Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture.

The incident took place at the Nitori Yumetown Takamatsu store in Takamatsu City’s Kamitenjincho at around 10:40 a.m. on July 11. The man was pushing his wife’s wheelchair up the escalator on their way to the store's third floor, but lost his balance as the two were about to get off. The two fell down the escalator, hitting a woman who was behind them, Fuji TV reported

The victim, Harumi Watanabe, died approximately eight hours later from her injuries.

The woman in the wheelchair suffered a bone fracture and her husband light injuries.

The store was equipped with an elevator and had warning signs not to use strollers and wheelchairs on the escalator.

Police said Tuesday that the man has admitted he was negligent and quoted him as saying he was truly sorry. He told police that he used the escalator without giving it much thought.

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But we all know how Japanese courts work, an old man pushing his wife in a wheelchair, automatic suspended sentence.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

I find this very strange from a legal perspectives. If they are going to charge the husband with negligent homocide, why not also the wife?

The negligence act here is not simply losing grip of the wheelchair, it's deciding to take a wheelchair up an escalator when there is always an appreciable risk of it falling down somehow and causing injury or death to the riders below. Uness the wife was asleep or in a coma, she took part in the decision or at least consented to being taken up the escalator. She is just as blameworthy in the eyes of the law.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

*I am assuming the wife was in the wheelchair at the time rather than standing as her husband held the empty wheelchair.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I often see mothers with prams on escalators, even though there are announcements and signs telling people not to. I've also seen people with shopping trollies on escalators. "Ignorance can be cured, but stupidity cannot!"

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Poor guy, his wife is disabled and he mesnt no malice I am sure. Why destroy the rest of his and his wife’s life?

If they can somehow recompense the other family that would be necessary, but I hope they dont throw him in jail.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

The elevators tend to be crammed tight with lazy people which makes it harder for a wheelchair user, particularly when you get Tourists coming along and pushing in front meaning you go no where. So not surprised he took the Escalator.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

It's fair that he is judged and condemned. But no worries, they don't jail 80 yrs oldies. It's for the sake of jail staff that would get geriatric care as extra work.


The wife was a passenger of the chair. It's like on the road, the driver is responsible for causing accidents.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

mmwkdw - I know that store very, very well.

There is a large elevator very close. It is rarely overly crowded at any time. For certain on that day at that time there'd be next to no one using it. I'd suggest he perhaps may have been the lazy one or as many people do - just go their own way, even if signs or warnings abound. Negligence has no boundaries.

Sad all around - for the tragic death of the women and her family, and for him and his family. Terrible in fact.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

good,make him pay and jail

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Malls, stores, public buildings in Japan which use escalators, should also provide accessible elevators for wheel chair users.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@browny1 - I certainy wont argue with you if indeed you are familiar with that particular store, however from my own personal experience in Department Stores here in Central Tokyo, that many able-bodied people will crowd into the Elevators rather than take the Escalators or even stairs. And when it comes to a Tourist stop shop, if there's a disabled person waiting for an Elevator (or a Mother with Child in push chair) and a bus load of Tourists has arrived (particularly those from China), then getting into an Elevator in the first place is quite difficult, and even when they do, they have people literally leaning over them. Some stores still have Elevator staff to assist, which helps alleviate this overcrowding issue.

That said, the Elderly man should have realized that he's not as capable as he was when younger, and should not have been trying to take a wheelchair up an Escalator in the first place.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

mmwkdw - thanks for your response.

Yes, I feel lucky living far from the madding crowd. Zero interest to experience it on a daily basis.

I guess your comments says that people here - locals & visitors - have a long way to go to understanding the problems of those with disabilities and show concern and respect.

Unfortunately regarding this sad case, the circumstances of elderly folk "physically / mentally stretching beyond their limitations" is visible daily - whether it be drivers, bicycle riders, pedestrians, shoppers and yes elevator users.

This tragedy was so avoidable, with no inconvenience to any party.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Yes lazy old people with no perspective for the future.

At the samew I wonder how you could die by some people and a rolling chair falling are supposed to avoid it for most part very easily. Normally the fallers do die. Victim must have saved the fallers.


1 ( +1 / -0 )

I often see mothers with prams on escalators, even though there are announcements and signs telling people not to.

Because they are tired of seeing able bodied people use the elevators and push them out of the way to get on. Not saying I agree with what they are doing but I can understand why they do it. Just like with this couple. Either way, the outcome is sad and tragic and no doubt the old guy is very upset about what happened. No winners in this case.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I very often have to wait more than one round until I can enter an elevator with a baby pram. It is normally full with able-bodied idiots that could use the escalators just as well. Also, some shopping cart systems are made to be used on escalator.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Just an observation here from reading all these comments; (this is NOT directed at anyone in particular)

To those who are complaining about the lack of manners of both Japanese and tourists when it comes to elevators keep these things in mind before gushing all over the place about the "omotenashi" (hospitality) of "all" Japan and Japanese. It isn't true.

Japanese people are nothing "special", they are just like people in just about every other country in the world. Dont look at the people here with rose colored glasses. There are good, bad and impolite and thoughtless folks here in abundance too!

Once that sinks in, incidents like these and others start to make a little more sense.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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