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Two children killed after train hits car in Aomori

40 Comments

Two children were killed after the car they were riding in with their mother was hit by a train at a railway crossing in Aomori City.

The accident occurred around 1:30 pm on Sunday, police said. TBS reported that as the car was crossing over the tracks, it was hit by an express train. A 4-year-old boy, Reira Kojima, was flung from the vehicle by the impact and pronounced dead at the scene. His 3-year-old sister Airu suffered suffered severe injuries and was taken to hospital where she was pronounced dead.

The children's 36-year-old mother, who was driving the car, sustained head injuries and was in a stable condition.

According to witnesses, at the time of the accident, the railway crossing gate began lowering, forcing the car to stop in the middle of the tracks.

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"According to witnesses, at the time of the accident, the railway crossing gate began lowering, forcing the car to stop in the middle of the tracks."

Godawful news but this sounds really suspicious to me.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

According to witnesses, at the time of the accident, the railway crossing gate began lowering, forcing the car to stop in the middle of the tracks.

It's not a portcullis. Was her way ahead blocked?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

So sad, but based on experience seeing the amount of time most crossings have a good gap before going down it seems the mother might have not stopped properly at the crossing.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

It looks like the railcrossing barrier malfunctioned if it came down "at" the time of the accident. They should come down a good minute BEFORE the train.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

The lights and bells start going long before the gates come down. She was obviously trying to run the gates. Also, the gates are only made from a soft PVC or, in some cases, bamboo and are easily rammed. Furthermore, because one kid was thrown from the vehicle it would be pretty safe to conclude the kids were not wearing seatbelts either. I feel sorry for the train driver who has to live with the consequences of this woman's stupidity.

-2 ( +8 / -10 )

Let's not speculate. There's not enough information in this article to judge conditions or motivations or much of anything except how tragic this is.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

Sure we can't speculate, but at this time the two most likely scenarios are these:

The mother tried to race through, but couldn't make it on time.

The mother deliberately stopped on the tracks.

Either way, very irresponsible. And that poor train driver ...

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

There's no mention of snow. Perhaps the crossing was iced over?

Whatever the case this is really sad news. I wonder if there is any kind of mental and emotional support for this lady.

A parent should never have to bury their children. Very painful.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

She'll have to live with the fact that she is responsible for the death of her two young children for the rest of her life.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Sad story. Mother is probably alive cuz she was buckled up. If her son was wearing his seatbelt, he probably wouldn't have been thrown out of the car.

RIP little ones.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Ms. Alexander.

They train would gave hit them in the side, if the boy sat on the impact side a seatbelt would do little as the car was stopped.

But nice speculation based in non-supplied info, always amazes me how some posters know so much.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Think Commodore Shmidlap has it right. Not nearly enough information here to speculate. Watched the NHK Japanese version and the police are still investigating everything. Regardless of the facts, I think everyone can agree that this is a tragedy, that two young children will never experience the fullness of life regardless of the reasons.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

According to witnesses, at the time of the accident, the railway crossing gate began lowering, forcing the car to stop in the middle of the tracks.

It says VERY clearly that "at the time of the accident" the railway crossing gate trapped the car.

This is VERY clearly not the mother's fault. It is a faulty railway crossing gate that closed too late.

I am sickened that so many posters here ignore what is written in the article plain as day and instead insist on trying to blame the mother. You're sick!

-11 ( +1 / -12 )

The article does not give details, but if she stopped ON the Tracks because barrier was going down, that is insane! At that moment she should have crashed the barrier; staying in the middle of the crossing is suicide.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Frungy- I understand your feelings, but (at least what I was talking about) all drivers are required to stop fully and look both ways before crossing tracks. When the gates go down, first the bells ring and then they go down slowly. A lot even have the 'exit' side close slower than the 'enter' side. (I am being sincere here) I haven't heard much about faulty crossing gates, is that a big problem in Japan, like the train is right there and they come right down?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Again, not even a witness ' speech to know more or any little clue given by that so called journalist. Even the train driver can say what he saw ! Probably silliness about driver.

By the way, it is completely silly to make a full stop before crossing since you have way more chance to stall. And for those risky ones, why not put red paint like in some areas meaning it is forbidden to stop.

Hope sincerely she will recover and that it is not the driver s fault though. RIP.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Frungy

At Japanese railroad crossings the flashing light and audible alarm go off and then the barricade comes down after an ample delay. The delay is specifically timed so that it's long enough to allow for a vehicle, or pedestrian even, that's already on the tracks and past the barrier to make it across before the barrier on the other side comes down. The odds that the barriers malfunctioned and somehow came down early trapping them is infinitesimally small, especially since railroad crossing barricades are weighted to fail in the up/open position. The most likely scenario by a long shot is that the driver didn't want to wait for the train and ignored the crossing lights and audible alarms that were already on thinking she could make it across in time but didn't hurry across fast enough, even with the built in lag between the alarms and the barricades. There's even an additional delay from when the barricades actually lower to when the train actually reaches the crossing, which was 28 seconds at this particular crossing as demonstrated in the linked news coverage. That's more than enough time for an alert driver to either crash through the barrier with the car, back up and off of the set of tracks with the oncoming train (it was a two-track crossing), or get out and push the emergency stop button that was right there which would at least have notified the train of a problem ahead at the crossing. Unfortunately she didn't do any of these things and instead most likely panicked and just sat there hoping that she was far enough off of the tracks for the train to not hit the rear end of her car. Collisions at railroad crossings are the fault of whoever/whatever is crossing the tracks 99% of the time and almost never the fault of the train or due to mechanical/design problems with the crossing itself. You seem to be sure that there was a problem with the barricades but the odds are that this case is no different.

http://www.fnn-news.com/news/headlines/articles/CONN00285155.html

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Furthermore, because one kid was thrown from the vehicle it would be pretty safe to conclude the kids were not wearing seatbelts either.

Have you ever seen what a train does to a motor vehicle when it impacts the side of the vehicle? I have. Seatbelts are not designed to withstand those kinds of forces. So no, it's not "safe" to conclude ANYTHING about this tragedy. The only thing that surprises me is that the mother managed to survive. Normally the sudden lateral G forces will either snap the neck, or turn the brain to mush.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Surely if the gates are coming down while you are still on the crossing, you'd quickly confirm visually that a train is on the way and, if so, drive your car through the barrier.

Sounds like it may have been a failed murder-suicide.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Thank you to all those posters who informed me how Japanese rail crossings work. I am well aware of how they work, I drive through two every day.

I have personally seen one malfunctioning. The warning alarm did not go off, the lights did not flash and the booms just came down, narrowly missing the car in front of me. It was fixed by the time I got home that night, but it was pretty disconcerting. And yes, these are rare, I've only seen it once in over a decade of driving through 2 railway crossings every day (about 1 in 10 000 times more or less).

It does happen. These are mechanical devices and they can malfunction.

The fact that most of you can't grasp that mechanical devices can malfunction, and instead choose to believe that a woman would kill her children is frankly depressing beyond words.

Or you'd rather believe she couldn't put her foot down and ram a barrier? Again, your faith in machinery seems absolute while your faith in humanity is depressingly low.

Or perhaps you've all just drunk the JR cool-aid where nothing is EVER JR's fault, not the lack of barriers in crowded stations or when trains have accidents or when equipment malfunctions.

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

The crossing looks iffy, as far as safety. News said it was on a curve, there is not much time for train to stop coming around the curve, but that there is supposed to be 'about 28 seconds' between the gate drop and the train's crossing. You can see from the photos the road is a little barely-two-lane bumpy road across the tracks, easy to get stuck on. The gates don't look substantial enough to block the car if she hit the gas but there is a lot of snow along the tracks, maybe her wheels skid and she got stuck, especially with the weird road leveling there. Also, in front of the crossing is a 'crowded' aquarium the family was heading to, maybe there was a vehicle in front of her blocking her way: http://www.xanthous.jp/2015/01/25/asamushi-fatal-accidents/

Also, what does that weird little sign at the crossing say? Looks like the street level changes there with potential for cars to get stuck (don't know if the cartoon car is stuck or just bumping hard): http://goo.gl/maps/oCo05 (Google street view)

Re gates, there was a guy killed in US a few weeks ago by a malfunctioning gate, in Gilroy, CA. A train repair convoy of several separate vehicles was passing through an intersection on the tracks, and the arms worked for the first couple of vehicles and then rose while the others were still oncoming, and the next one hit the victim who was crossing in his pickup truck. The train workers said it "happens all the time": http://www.pottroff.com/railroad-news/california-motorist-killed-when-union-pacific-crossing-protection-system-fails

But that was a semi-rural gate, not in the city (http://goo.gl/maps/fZgZc, scroll north a few hundred yards and you can see track service vehicles on the track). And no snow at all there. Anyway, you'd expect if a gate was malfunctioning in the city that it would get fixed a lot quicker. (OTOH, the track repair people were RIGHT THERE in Gilroy! Why didn't they fix it or block traffic til fixed? Too jaded, maybe.)

0 ( +1 / -1 )

(OTOH, the track repair people were RIGHT THERE in Gilroy! Why didn't they fix it or block traffic til fixed? Too jaded, maybe.)

Track repair equipment repairs TRACK (i.e. gravel bed, rails, spikes, and ties), not crossing gates. A track repair crew isn't normally going to have an electrician on the team.

Sounds like it may have been a failed murder-suicide.

Only to you. You're assuming the mother would think EXACTLY like you as you sit in your chair reading your computer screen. She probably had a few other things to consider while stuck on the tracks than whether to take another sip of coffee before reading the next article. Assuming everyone else would think and act like you THINK you would is the first step towards megalomania.

We, the readers of JT, know NOTHING about why the car was where it was. We only know the result. Her car could have stalled. It could have run out of gas. The gates could have come down without warning. There are too many possibilities that preclude intentionally killing her children for us amateur detectives to proclaim it "sounds" like any particular scenario.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

If the gate malfunctioned, and the woman was trapped on the rail crossing, the first thing anyone should do is look to see if a train is coming. If a train was coming, she should have driven through the gate to save herself and children, but she didn't... so that means there was something blocking her way (like another car, probably in front AND behind her), which means she probably entered the rail crossing without confirming if there was ample room to escape ahead or behind the crossing. I completely agree we shouldn't speculate, but logic also speaks for itself, wouldn't you say? Bless the little ones, and I really do feel for the mother, but it sounds like an avoidable accident. The mother will have to live with this, regardless of a gate malfunction.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

In an emergency, logical thinking is usually the first thing lost. Yes, "logically' she should have done this or that, but we don't know whether she COULD have done this or that.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Fadamor: Track repair equipment repairs TRACK (i.e. gravel bed, rails, spikes, and ties), not crossing gates. A track repair crew isn't normally going to have an electrician on the team.

"or block traffic til fixed", I typed. Is it too much to ask for a track repair convoy to carry traffic cones/barriers and the means to disable the train gate in locked position? Especially as at least some of the time they will be repairing tracks crossing public roadways? And since as the workers said themselves, it "happens all the time"?

Re possibility of suicide as discussed by other posters, I don't see that as a likely motive at all, in a mother on her way to the aquarium just ahead of her.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As sad as this is, I am afraid accidents like this will always be happening in countries like Japan.

People are given driver's licences whe they can correctly repeat answers to several hundred of questions, having spent countless hours to learn them like a robot.

The number of traffic fatalities in Japan, compared top other countries tells you everything you need to know...

In civilised countries they give driver's licences to people WHO CAN DRIVE ! And not to everyone simply because he/she has enough money to spend it on a car, and help the economy.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

Tragic.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@ Jonathan Prin at Jan. 26, 2015 - 10:39PM JST "By the way, it is completely silly to make a full stop before crossing since you have way more chance to stall. "

It may be silly, but it is the law in Jspan that drivers must make a full stop before going through any railroad crossing.

@volland "People are given driver's licences whe they can correctly repeat answers to several hundred of questions, "

A driving test must also be passed to get a license.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

According to witnesses, at the time of the accident, the railway crossing gate began lowering, forcing the car to stop in the middle of the tracks.

This paragraph is really badly phrased. If read literally it means that the gates closed as the train came towards the car, forcing car to stop and get hit.This would have left no time for the mother to react. It would also indicate a mechanical failure in the system as there is supposed to be a fairly considerable delay between the gates closing and the train reaching that point.

Now it may be a bad translation, but this is the only information we have on the accident.

It all rotates around what is meant by "at the time of the accident".

But those people who are deliberately ignoring what is written in the article and operating under the assumption that the mother was suicidal have absolutely nothing to back up their assumptions.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

"countries like Japan" and "In civilised countries they give driver's licences to people WHO CAN DRIVE"

So, the Japanese are what, exactly, savages? Not to mention the breathtaking display of ignorance about how Japanese go about gaining their licenses, countless hours driving with instructors, up to and including driving tests that are light years more difficult than in my supposedly civilized nation.

"The number of traffic fatalities in Japan, compared top other countries tells you everything you need to know..."

Care to back that up with some links?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"stopped in the middle of the tracks" Really. Was the driver a complete idiot?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

This paragraph is really badly phrased.

What you quoted is a sentence, not a paragraph.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Slumdog - It is both a sentence and a separate paragraph. I was correct. You statement that it is not a paragraph because it is a single sentence is incorrect.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

The story was covered on one of the news programs this morning. It was the common yellow/black-lined PVC pole no-more than a few centimeters in diameter. Furthermore there was nothing stopping this women from driving trough the PVC pole which had me puzzled, a rather rural crossing. Seems that she froze as the pole lowered and could not force herself to run it down!

This happens more often than you think and I believe it's the NEVER BREAK THE LAW mentality ingrained since birth. You would never hear of such a case back home because our sense of survival supersedes the rule of law and we are also taught that it's sometimes necessary to break laws in-order to protect others or oneself.

The children’s 36-year-old mother, who was driving the car, sustained head injuries and was in a stable condition.

Seems like she must have had head injuries prior to the accident. I have a feeling her stable condition will take a sudden turn for the worse after the headache clears up and she realizes what she has done!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Jcapan - Japanese people are not savages, of course not. In general they aren't good drivers though. I see countless examples of this first hand everyday. In particular, I find the average driver's awareness of what is going on in any direction other than directly in front of them is sadly lacking. Of course this is all speculation but I can imagine this woman panicked half way through the gate when the barrier started to come down and stopped out of fear and lack of decision making. In the same way I often see cars sitting over pedestrian crossings after they have overshot an amber yet still want to follow the rules and stop at the light, thus becoming an obstacle to pedestrians. As I say, speculation but I think I can imagine the lead up to this sad accident.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I've been driving by this very fumikiri in Asamushi a couple times a month for eight years. It is located after a right angle curve off of a main road where traffic is traveling up to 80k/he. The land is raised to meet the track making it difficult for low carriage vehicles to cross and there is only about 1 car length of room before the gate after one pulls off of the main road. Not to mention that at this time of year there is over a meter of snow on every street corner limiting visibility. I have always thought that it was dangerous. You can't even hear the chime from the main road do to traffic. It is not only possible, but also very likely in my opinion for someone to become bewildered as soon as they make the turn - especially if the gates are closing right before a train is coming. This poor women most likely was caught up in a situation that any one of us could find ourselves in and she had very little time to react. My heart goes out to her and I hope that we all think for a second just how dangerous some fumikiri can be. Attempted triple suicide is the most fantastic and ridiculous conclusion I've read here. Anyone who is familiar with the area will tell you it is a dangerous place for a Fumikiri. Everyone be careful driving out there and may this woman find peace.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Stewart, that's a reasonable argument (unlike the lunacy upthread). Not sure if I agree that the locals are any worse than where I'm from (US). Just bad in different ways, often due to the insane conditions we face here, at least in urban areas--narrow roads, hordes of pedestrians and bikes who are often oblivious. Overall, I find driving in Japan a completely joyless experience (except for my brief time in Hokkaido).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Off topic but my biggest pet peeve is the almost complete lack of child seats. How any self-respecting parent can just let their child sit/stand/move around unprotected in a car (a weak death trap of a car, in the case of K-cars) is beyond me. The lack of legal enforcement in this area also beggars belief.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Furthermore there was nothing stopping this women from driving trough the PVC pole which had me puzzled, a rather rural crossing. Seems that she froze as the pole lowered and could not force herself to run it down!

Again, you're making an assumption with no basis on fact. You're assuming the car was operating normally when the gates came down and during the time they were down. Did the car stall - either through engine problems or in her panic she stalled it? WE DON'T KNOW why the car didn't move off the tracks, so proclaiming what "seems" to be is making a statement with insufficient data. Amateur detectives make amateur deductions.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Some comments are truly unbelievable...

@John Galt Do yourself a favor, and find out what the word „tragic“ actually means… It is not tragic, when your car stops on a crossing and a train comes….

@educator60 Are you a participant in Japan’s traffic?

@jcapan They have the same quota of savages as other countries, if you think they are any better, watch a movie called The Cove. I am not your daddy, do your reserach yourself, it's easy. You will also find another interesting fact very fast. The average speed of cars in First World Countries worldwide is around 30kmh, in Japan its below 10kmh. The economic consequences from this alone, can already be felt…. Japanese roads, as the whole rest of the infrastructure except trains, have absolutely nothing in common with first world standards

Explain to me, how you can get caught between closing bars at railway crossing? Simply read MrPerfect’s comment….

Or read Stewart Gale’s comment, what he says about japanese is true. In that respect they are like little children, for their whole life. What is at their left or their right, or, God forbid behind them, does not exist! Unless its in front of their eyes, its not there. Just watch how they play football… They have hardly any sense for space at all.

@fadamor A wise comment… So, when your car breaks down on a railway crossing and you see the gates closing, you consider it normal NOT to be the very first thing to do, to look left and right? When you see/hear a train coming, you simply keep on turning the ignition key?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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