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67-year-old woman killed by train after trying to cross tracks

26 Comments

A 67-year-old woman was struck and killed by an oncoming train after she tried to cross the Keio line tracks in Tokyo's Fuchu city just before 1 p.m. on Sunday, police said Monday.

According to police, the woman was crossing the tracks with a friend when she was trapped on the tracks by the automatic crossing gates and was unable to avoid the approaching train. The woman's friend huddled in the space between the gate and the tracks and was unharmed.

According to train operator Keio Dentetsu, the accident stopped the train involved for 15 minutes and caused delays in 35 additional trains, affecting a 1,800 passengers.

A similar event occurred at the same location in January, 2008.

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26 Comments
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That's very sad. What a terrifying death for this woman.

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Terrifying and absolutely sad but also, you would have to think, avoidable.

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@rockbuster - I agree. AI could easily get around, or under, any crossing gates I've seen here in Japan. Maybe she just froze from fear.

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should have said I, not AI, sorry.

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'trapped' by the gates - they are made of flexible bamboo. A needless death by someone who probably never 'crossed a line' in her life.

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Sad, particularly given the holiday it is today, but I agree it was also completely avoidable. There is a lot of understandable frustration at some of these stations, where the gates can be down for more than 20 minutes while trains pass in both directions, but you have to be patient.

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When the bars come down it means, stop, not you have time.

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This is such a 'Japanese' accident. For the sake of waiting 30 seconds her life is now over. Running red lights, walking across red signals, running to catch a train that comes every three minutes, speeding in vehicles, all just to save a minute or two of their miserable existence. Somebody really needs to explain the concept of 'first' to the Japanese people. You don't have to be first all the time.

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According to police, the woman was crossing the tracks with a friend when she was trapped on the tracks by the automatic crossing gates

I think the only "trap" was in the old woman's own mind. Did she forget how to crawl? Because every gate I ever saw was just a single bar. Panic must have taken over.

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Disillusioned is it your "hate for the Japanese" day today? Or is that everyday? Haven't you ever had the red "no crossing" light change on you when you were in the middle of crossing a street? Get over that you think every Japanese is an incompetent sod attitude. This is merely an unfortunate accident. Keio should try to rectify the problem if it's happened before.

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In Australia there is an 'escape gate' that you can use in such situations - the pedestrian gate that closes for people trying to cross the tracks can be opened by someone stuck in such a situation.

Disillusioned might be harsh, but those who try and save an extra second or two - I see them almost everyday in my rural life. People traveling way over the speed limit in the few urban zones, passing my car (which is doing 50 km!) in a 40 km zone because they're in a rush. "This won't be a bother..." then "Oh sh*t"

Did she forget how to crawl?

Not all 67 year olds are flexible to drop and drag themselves under a bar. That and panic.

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I live near a really wide crossing where several trains pass through in both directions. Sometimes I've just started across after the gate's been down for five minutes, and it starts to ding again. When that happens, you either have to RUN or turn back. If you're elderly, have small children, have something heavy with you, or are slowed down for any reason, it could really be deadly. I've been stuck on the wrong side of the gate before, but was able to go under it. Someone less limber probably wouldn't be able to, as they seem to be just high enough that they're hard to go over, but just low enough that they're hard to go under.

There's a passage under the tracks, but it requires going underground and taking stairs, which isn't an option for everyone. I could easily see something like this happening there. Except usually there's enough clearance between gate and train that you wouldn't get hit ...

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The woman’s friend huddled in the space between the gate and the tracks and was unharmed.

The responsibility for this death totally lies on the shoulders of the Keio line. Not enough space between the gate and the track ? That means that these gates are unsafe for elderly people or young children. There should be enough safe space between the wrong side of the gate and the train and these gates are clearly right up against the trains.

A similar event occurred at the same location in January, 2008.

Like I just said, these gates are not safe.

the accident stopped the train involved for 15 minutes and caused delays in 35 additional trains, affecting a 1,800 passengers.

Only 15 minutes to investigate the accident before clearing the poor womans body away ? They were more bothered about their stupid train timetable than this poor womans safety.

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mikehuntez - Get over that you think every Japanese is an incompetent sod attitude.

Not all of them. Just most of them. :D

Haven't you ever had the red "no crossing" light change on you when you were in the middle of crossing a street?

Um, a little bit different to trying to outrun a speeding train when you're in your 60's don't you think. Have you ever noticed how the lights and bells start flashing a good 30 seconds before the boom comes down? This is to allow people to get off the tracks, not to run onto them. Do I really need to explain this to you? Next time you are at a level crossing and the lights start flashing have a look at the percentage of fools who will start running even after the boom gates start to come down. If there are 20 people there 19 of them will run it. That's 95%! As I said, "most!"

Then, you can start on the number of cars running red lights. When I was a kid in Australia we used to count the numbers on number plates. Here, my kids and I play, count the red light runners. My record is 13 at a 4 lane intersection.

Need I go on?

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According to train operator Keio Dentetsu, the accident stopped the train involved for 15 minutes and caused delays in 35 additional trains, affecting a 1,800 passengers.

Nonsense information. Instead Keio should give the reason why this tragedy happened again?

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Disillusioned, we get your (Japanese-stereotyping) point. But none of us know the full story yet, so you seem to be jumping to conclusions buddy. How do you know that the woman wasn't disabled in some way, making the short crossing take much longer ? How do you know that she didn't take a heavy fall on her way across ? The point is pal, that railway crossing gates in very busy metropolitan cities such as Tokyo should have enough safety space between the gate and the trains. And if her friend had to crouch between the gate and the train as the report states, then this tells me that these were no single 'bamboo pole' gates, but rather the type that were fully covered from top to floor. Thus making this tight crossing potentially lethal.

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Disillusioned I know what you are talking about but the story doesn't give that detail. What I was going to say to you was covered by northlondon. Thanks northlondon.

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Unfortunately there are a number of quite deadly crossings sprinkled around the Tokyo area, multiple tracks and vicious schedules, hard enough if you are driving, but a gamble at best when you are walking.There is no 30 second warning at a lot of these crossing, perhaps ten at best.

While there are often underground passages that can be used at some places, they are dark and dank with steep (and sometimes crumbling) stairs and I can understand why people hesitate to use them.

Private railways in Japan are still profitable, often the foundation of vast business empires, but they would rather sponsor a baseball team than spend money on public safety.

Most "safety" implementations are based on rules established many years ago when both the volume of train service and the corresponding street traffic was much less. There needs to be changes, but if left to the individual railway companies it's questionable as to how far they will go.

While not in favor of government over-regulation, this does call out for intervention, but then this is Japan, so the big debate will probably be who needs to compensate the some 1,800 inconvenienced passengers.

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In the Tokai area, the level crossing gates come down 45 seconds before the train goes past, and I was under the probably false assumption that it was a uniform regulation across the country.

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Japanese metropolitan train services are lethal accidents waiting to happen. The timetables run great (thanks to no unions and management bullying their drivers), but this compromises passenger safety. Anyone else remember Amagasaki, caused by a train service with a competitor running the Takarazuka service, pushing it's drivers beyond safety ?

The Odakyu line between Sangubashi and Yoyogi-Hachiman is a typical example. Around the world, a 2 minute gap between trains is recognised as a minimum safe distance for train safety, with 1 minute the very limit. If you were to time the gap between trains on the Odakyu line during busy periods you would be really lucky to find even a 1 minute gap between trains. They even run out-of-service trains along the line between the already bursting to capacity service. Therefore people are fed up with waiting for so long to cross the road. There is no overhead bridge from the back entrance to Yoyogi Meiji Jingu all the way down to Yoyogi Hachiman and people need to get to work. And when there are service delays it is a complete nightmare, with traffic backed-up all over the place.

Another example of compromises of passenger safety on Tokyo train services is the Chiyoda line at Meiji Jingumae Harajuku station. It is a very busy station with all the Harajuku shoppers around, yet the number of times I have seen train doors being slammed shut on people walking through the open doors is frightening. The Chiyoda line needs a member of staff by the busy down escalator giving the all-clear to shut the doors (they do not have one).

Train services in Japan are neglecting passenger safety for their selfish timetable statistics.

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In the Tokai area, the level crossing gates come down 45 seconds before the train goes past, and I was under the probably false assumption that it was a uniform regulation across the country

I don't know if there are uniform regulation but this crossing use to have 45 seconds but because of the accident, they increased the time to 51 seconds. Not only that, the distance was reduced from 35m to 23m.

http://www.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20100920/t10014095891000.html

Apparently, she had bad knees as well.

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According to the TV news, which showed the crossing, the woman had bad knees which prevented her from moving fast enough to the 'safe' area. It is 23 meters between gates. There are two sets of tracks which run at an angle to the road thus making it an 'odd' crossing area. There was an accident similar to this in 2008 AND IN 2004. After the 2008 accident the train company changed the crossing to make it easier to cross.

This poor woman just happened to not have enough time to get out of the way and was hit as she started onto the second set of tracks. Perhaps she thought the train was going to be on the other tracks.

They do need to investigate and try to improve this, but really, how many people (including elderly) cross SAFELY over this crossing each day?

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It seems this is the crossing in question.

http://tinyurl.com/3agunzq

@Disillusioned - just out of curiosity, when you say people in Japan cross roads on red signals what country are you comparing it to? It's just that personally I haven't seen a country where people obey a red pedestrian signal as much as they do in Japan, but there again I haven't been to every country in the world.

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Have to agree with disillusioned and roppongi. The crossings here are especially of Andy of Mayberry style. In my case, the local offshoot to the Yamanote line is a "one-man" driver system. Sometimes the gates will come down on time, and sometimes they'll come down a minute or two early. When they come down, for a train coming one way, it stays down while the train going in the opposite direction pulls in. There is enough time to put the rails up, allow the B-passengers to cross the tracks and get on their train, but no, the gates stay down, and we wait with anxiety over missing our train due to the slow reaction of the gates. To NOT miss that train (the next one will be coming in 5-7 minutes, but we HAVE to ride THIS train if at all possible, because we are already running 5-7 minutes late!) Its the Nishi-Nihon syndrom. That's life in the big city of Tokyo. 95% of the people are either running late, or about to be running late. And the nature of where they are going or what they are doing takes second priority to arriving there on time. And in my opinion, was a mitigating factor in the women's mind. So the railways are accountable, but so are the people, and there lack of flexibility concerning "getting there on time".

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And then when you get there, you have to wait as the people file through the narrow gates to get out of the station. And they have these wierd, criss-cross areas, whether inside the train station or outside in the streets, where if you don't look in at least 3-directions, someone will side-swipe you with their bags, their walking, their riding against traffic on bicycle or what have you. The rule of thumb here, is WATCH OUT WHEREVER AND WHENEVER YOU LEAVE YOUR DOORSTEP! and I'm not kidding, in my opinion.

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And in my opinion, was a mitigating factor in the women's mind.

isthistheend can now read peoples minds.

but we HAVE to ride THIS train if at all possible, because we are already running 5-7 minutes late!) Its the Nishi-Nihon syndrom.

The issue is with the train companies obsession with running their timetables right on time, compromising peoples safety. Not with some anti-Japanese rant about people trying to get to work on time. That happens all over the world.

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