May 3

This Day in History

Disaster

May 3, 1962:

Trains collide near Tokyo

Two commuter trains and a freight train collide near Tokyo, Japan, killing more than 160 people and injuring twice that number on this day in 1962.

It was Constitution Day in Japan when a commuter train pulled out of Mikawashima station at 9:30 p.m. taking passengers out of Tokyo. Three miles north of the city, a freight train went through a red signal, causing it to jump the track and collide with the commuter train. Most of the passengers survived this first collision.

The survivors then scrambled out of the disabled train and down a 30-foot embankment adjacent to the rails. Minutes later, a second commuter train on the same line, with nine cars, came down the tracks unaware of the crash ahead and plowed into the back of the first commuter train. The collision caused the boiler of the steam locomotive on the freight train to explode; the resulting steam scalded those people still stuck on the train.

To make matters worse, the first commuter train was pushed over and down the embankment right on top of the passengers who had escaped from it minutes earlier. More than 400 people were either killed or required hospitalization.

The subsequent investigation into the accident resulted in the indictment of nine of the freight train's crew members for criminal negligence.

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