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Families, survivors mark 14th anniv. of fatal JR West derailment

This combined file photo shows the site of a fatal train derailment that claimed 107 lives in the western Japan city of Amagasaki. The left photo was taken on April 25, 2005, on the day of the accident. The photo on the right, taken on April 23, 2019, shows an arched construction built along the train track by West Japan Railway Co. to memorialize part of the condominium building that the train crashed into after derailing at a curve. (Kyodo)

KOBE (Kyodo) -- Some 500 survivors and family members of victims of a 2005 train derailment that killed 107 people gathered Thursday to mark the 14th anniversary of the accident at a memorial ceremony held at the crash site for the first time.

West Japan Railway Co. hosted the ceremony in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, with the company's president vowing to prevent a similar accident from ever occurring.

"We have renewed our determination that each one of our employees will create a safe and secure railway," JR West President Tatsuo Kijima said.

"It is our most important mission not to forget the accident, to keep in mind the regrets and lessons learned and to continue to be a safe railway operator in the future," the president said, noting that nearly half of JR West's 27,000 employees have joined the company since the incident.

On April 25, 2005, a rush-hour commuter train on the JR Fukuchiyama Line derailed after entering a curved section of the track when traveling well in excess of its maximum permitted speed. It crashed into a condominium building at 9:18 a.m., killing 106 passengers and the driver, and injuring 562 people.

"The monument we had been waiting for is completed," said Yuriko Saito, 76, who lost her 37-year-old son Mitsuru in the accident, referring to a cenotaph erected by the railway operator. "I suppose you've felt lonely for these 14 long years," she continued, addressing her late son. "Please watch over the safety (of train operations) and rest in peace."

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. The monument put up by the company bears the names of the victims.

The facility opened to the public in September last year.

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