Sega shutters amusement park after tragedy strikes

One dies in skydiving-simulator accident at Tokyo Joypolis; police investigate safety procedures.

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TOKYO--Sega announced today that it has closed its Tokyo Joypolis theme park until further notice. The move was prompted by a deadly accident that took place yesterday.

Junichi Tsubouchi, a 30-year-old paraplegic confined to a wheelchair, died after falling out of a virtual skydiving ride. Tsubouchi was reportedly too large for the ride's safety belt to fit around his waist, so it was not used. Police are investigating whether the negligence of park staff contributed to the accident.

Sega has closed the park until an investigation can be completed.

Sega representatives, including president Hisao Oguchi, held a press conference today regarding the accident. According to statements made during the conference, Sega's official park operations manual clearly states that safety belts and other safety precautions are mandatory for all riders. However, immediately following the accident, Sega officials discovered that Tokyo Joypolis also had its own unofficial manual that was passed out to employees.

This unofficial manual instructed employees to use their judgment when deciding which patrons, regardless of height or weight, were to be permitted on rides.

Sega officials said that amusement park staff didn't always refer to the official manual as they were supposed to; instead, they regularly allowed visitors to go on rides without safety belts secured...as long as other restraints were used.

"There's the possibility that Junichi-san's body was too large, and the [safety] harness locked in a more loose position than it was supposed to, causing him to slip through," commented president Oguchi. "It was our mistake. We never had an accident up until now."

Oguchi also stated that he was unaware of the existence of the unofficial manual. "It wasn't provided by headquarters. It was like a local rule book," commented Sega officials.

Sega's decision to close down Tokyo Joypolis may trigger a major loss for its amusement park operations. Japan will be entering "Golden Week" on April 29. The weeklong period of vacations and family trips is typically the most lucrative week of the year for the entertainment and travel industries in Japan. Currently, Sega is unsure if the park will reopen before that date.

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