AMAGASAKI, Japan – Hopes of finding more survivors from Japan's worst train crash in decades evaporated Wednesday as workers lifted more than a dozen bodies from the tangled wreckage, bringing the death toll to 95. An unknown number of dead remained trapped.
A probe into possible negligence by operator West Japan Railway Co. (search) has focused on the actions of the 23-year-old driver, his lack of experience and suspicions that the commuter train was speeding before it derailed and slammed into an apartment building Monday.
At least 458 people were injured.
Workers at the crash site in Amagasaki (search), about 250 miles west of Tokyo, removed at least 17 bodies Wednesday, Hyogo state police said. They found a body seated at the front of the train believed to be driver Ryujiro Takami, but that had not been confirmed, the Kyodo news agency said.
The death toll was expected to rise. West Japan Railway said 47 people had contacted the company saying their relatives or friends might have been on the train and were unaccounted for.
Residents of the apartment building said the boom from the crash resonated through the structure, sending panicked people rushing downstairs. They said residents and workers from nearby factories carried dozens of injured into the lobby, where they set up a makeshift treatment center.
"There were people everywhere covered in blood — too many of them to count," said Ayumi Tanaka, 36, who has been staying at a hotel along with other residents of the building.
Transportation Minister Kazuo Kitagawa indicated the government would order the railroad, also known as JR West, to review the way it operates after the investigation was complete.
"The driver had only 11 months of experience and we can only say that JR West's employee training and its tests to evaluate the suitability of drivers had problems," Kitagawa said in Parliament. "I would like to issue instructions to them based on the results of our investigation."
Amid rising concerns about train safety, a car in central Japan crashed into a train as it was passing through a rail crossing Wednesday morning. The car's driver was seriously injured, but none of the 130 passengers on the train were hurt.
Police, meanwhile, arrested the driver of a trailer for allegedly illegally entering a rail crossing north of Tokyo on Tuesday, where he got in the way of an express train that hit it and derailed.
To understand what went wrong in Amagasaki, authorities have been probing the offices of West Japan Railway to investigate the possibility of professional negligence.
Government investigators examining the accident site said they had found the train's "black box," a computer chip that stores information about the time and train's speed in the final seconds before an accident. They said the contents would take time to analyze.
National broadcaster NHK reported that police suspected the train was going 65 mph when it entered the curve where it derailed — well above the 43 mph speed limit. The railroad refused to confirm that report.
Investigators said the driver may have been shaken after overrunning the last station by 130 feet and falling 90 seconds behind schedule.
The seven-car train was packed with 580 passengers when it jumped the tracks near this Osaka suburb and plunged into the first floor of an apartment complex.