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Workers have pulled the uniformed body of the driver from the
wreckage of Japan's rail disaster as the death toll rose to 106
The actions of 23-year-old Ryujiro Takami are at the centre of
the investigation into Monday's deadly wreck, which is widely
believed to have been caused by excessive speed. Takami may have
been racing because he was 90 seconds behind schedule.
The government said it was considering a new train driver
certification system in the wake of the morning rush-hour disaster
in Amagasaki, about 410km west of Tokyo. More than 450 people were
"I wonder if we should be leaving driver qualification to train
operators," Transportation Minister Kazuo Kitagawa told reporters
Thursday. "Perhaps the government needs to be more actively
involved in driver qualification and training."
Currently, aircraft pilots and ship captains must pass state
exams to operate commercial flights and vessels, but there is no
state exam to officially certify train drivers do not, according to
Transport Ministry official Yoshihito Maesato.
Rescuers had not officially abandoned the search for survivors,
though they believed a teenager extracted from the wreckage Tuesday
morning was the last one alive. They pulled out eight bodies
Thursday, fire department officials said.
Authorities probing the accident have searched the offices of
the train's operator, West Japan Railway Co., over allegations of
professional negligence. Investigators were also examining the
train's "black box," a computer chip that stores information about
the train's speed.
Makoto Kono of Hyogo Prefectural Police said that a body pulled
from the first car of the wreck had been identified as Takami. He
was clothed in his uniform.
Takami got his train operator's licence in May 2004. One month
later, he overran a station and was issued a warning for his
mistake, railway officials and police said.
Media reports said officials believe the driver was going faster
than 100kph in Monday's crash, far above the speed limit on that
stretch of track.
JR West union officials on Thursday met with company executives
to demand improved safety measures such as the installation of more
advanced automatic braking systems along tracks to halt trains
exceeding the speed limit.
Media reports have said the tracks where the accident occurred
were equipped with an older automatic braking system that lacked
the ability of newer models to stop trains travelling at high
Deadly train accidents are rare in Japan. Monday's accident was
the worst rail disaster in nearly 42 years in this safety-conscious
country, which is home to one of the world's most complex,
efficient and heavily travelled rail networks.
A three-train crash in November 1963 killed 161 people in
Tsurumi, outside Tokyo.
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