Photo/IllutrationA 700-series Nozomi Shinkansen bullet train with a cracked nose made an emergency stop at Shin-Shimonoseki Station in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture. (Provided by a reader)

Human body parts were found in the cracked nose of a bullet train operated by a driver who thought he had run over a small animal on the Sanyo Shinkansen Line on June 14, railway officials said.

The driver of the Nozomi No. 176 Shinkansen heard the sound of an impact between Hakata Station and Kokura Station in Fukuoka Prefecture, but he continued driving without reporting the abnormal noise to the operation control center of West Japan Railway Co. (JR West).

Around 2:10 p.m., the driver of another train noticed the cracked nose of the Nozomi Shinkansen and informed the operation control center, which ordered an emergency stop of the damaged 16-car bullet train.

Police discovered the body parts at Shin-Shimonoseki Station in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, the stop after Kokura Station in Kita-Kyushu.

“(The driver) should have immediately informed (the center) about the abnormal sound for safety’s sake,” said an official of JR West’s Fukuoka branch.

Fukuoka prefectural police on June 15 said the man killed by the bullet train was a 52-year-old caregiver from Nogata, Fukuoka Prefecture.

According to the Yahata-Nishi Police Station in Kita-Kyushu, body parts were discovered in the area near the Ishizaka Tunnel on the bullet train line on the night of June 14. An empty minivan was parked on a nearby road.

Police confirmed the caregiver was the owner of the minivan, and they matched his fingerprints from body parts found in the nose of the Shinkansen.

They are treating the case as a suicide.

Under JR West’s Safety Think-and-Act Plan 2022 released in February, the overriding priority for all employees is safety.

The plan states that employees should immediately halt trains if they feel something is abnormal or if they cannot confirm the safety of operations, even if the problem turns out to be nothing serious.

The driver of the 700 series train said he thought he had hit an animal because people rarely enter the tracks between stations, JR West officials said.

“The driver decided on his own that the case didn’t apply to things that must be reported,” the Fukuoka branch official told The Asahi Shimbun. “That’s the point we should examine.”

The last fatality on the Sanyo Shinkansen Line occurred in May 2016, when a man was struck and killed by a bullet train on the track at Himeji Station in Hyogo Prefecture, JR West said.

The railway company said it is extremely rare for such accidents to occur between stations on the line.