About 500 relatives of 107 victims of a train derailment in 2005 and JR West officials attended a memorial service on Thursday at the site of the crash in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture.
A moment of silence was observed at 9:18 a.m., the exact moment the crash occurred 13 years ago. JR officials laid flowers at the site of the derailment on a section of the JR Fukuchiyama Line between Tsukaguchi and Amagasaki stations, Fuji TV reported. Bereaved families also placed flowers at the site.
JR West has turned the accident site into a place of remembrance where visitors can pray for the dead. It has preserved part of the now-vacant condominium building and covered the location with a roof, Kyodo News reported. A monument put up by the company bears the names of the victims.
On April 25, 2005, a speeding train on the JR Fukuchiyama Line jumped the tracks on a tight bend during the morning rush hour and plowed into a residential tower. The driver and 106 passengers died in the accident, which also left 562 people injured in Japan's worst rail disaster for four decades. It was determined later that the 23-year-old driver had been going over the speed limit on a curve because he was running late. The driver had been disciplined twice before the accident for running behind schedule.
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. All four were found not guilty by the Kobe District Court.
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 four executives 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.
In June 2017, an appeal filed by lawyers who served as prosecutors in the case was rejected by the Supreme Court.© Japan Today