Thursday, 28 June 2007

So it happened - train accident causing death...!

After a year and eight days in Japan I have experienced my first train accident involving a person - commonly referred to in Japan as a "human accident". In the first three days of being in Japan in 2006 my train hit an object but today it mowed a cyclist down on a level crossing.

I can't believe how the accident happened really. Level crossings here have barrier arms and bells well beyond what one would describe as sufficient. There would have to be something horribly wrong with you or a negligent act to find yourself in front of a train.

Anyway, I was sitting in my usual spot right up in the front of the train. We were cruising along between 85 and 100 km/h when I heard the driver in his cabin make a shouting sound as we came around a corner to the concealed crossing. I'm thinking it was the Japanese equivalent to "fuck" he shouted. Anyway there was a big crash and I could hear something bounce along under the carriages. The driver in a very professional and Japanese way gently applied the brakes and we came to a stop. I would have thought a sudden application of the strongest railway anchors would have been more appropriate but that would have equalled bad customer service! So gently it must be.

It was ages before I knew it was a human accident. In fact about half an hour or so had passed. The driver and conductor got out of the train and walked to the back. Being in search of information because I was late for work I walked to the back of the train to see what they were doing. They were out making sure the level crossing was okay and that the arms were up and traffic flowing. It was all very casual. I was starting to get shitty by this time as I was very late for work. I spoke to a Japanese man and said "too many meetings and not enough action" citing that the railway people who were standing around chatting. He translated that into Japanese and the other passengers in our area were roaring with laughter. The train staff must have a policy not to go searching for the "human accident" victim as death is almost a certainty.

After a while the rescue tender from the city fire department came and I saw them with a stretcher which then made everyone realise it was a "human accident". So by this time they had organised for us to evacuate the train and walk to the next station (bloody miles in 30+ degrees and humidity!).

You can see in the pictures below all the passengers sliding from the train. They took two of the long bench seats out and we all slid down them. It was interesting to say the least! Seats have Velvet upholstery so you slide nicely.

Trains vs humans are very clean. The body was cut up into many pieces and the bicycle was shredded. No blood splashes. Below are some pictures, although not so clear because of my camera phone. Nothing too gorry. What happens in these crashes is much of the body gets lodged up under the train carriage so it's a bit hard to see. Once we had all safely got off the train the rescue team were going to lift the train with some hydraulic equipment to get all the bits together.

One of the pictures, although not clearly, shows really the most visible bit of the deceased being one of their legs cleanly taken off at the hip. Don't worry, the mobile phone camera couldn't capture the details as well as my eyes could so it's safe viewing! Note, the blue tarpaulin in the pictures was not consistently held up and there was more but camera memory isn't so big!

If you look directly under the dangling hoses between the two carriages you can see the remains of the victims leg. It seems to have been torn from the abdomen at the hip region.

All the passengers being evacuated from the train by sliding down the seats with the help of the able people of the Saitama Fire Department.

Looking from the front of the train towards the back. You can see how far the mangled body was strewn under the train. Back to the second carriage.

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