At least 14 people have been killed, and a further 27 injured, following an overnight bus crash, in Karuizawa, Japan.
A bus carrying 41 people to a ski resort in Japan has crashed in the early hours of Friday, killing at least 14 and injuring a further 27 others. The accident occurred near Karuizawa, Japan.
The accident, the worst death toll for a bus accident in Japan for decades, occurred when the vehicle broke through a railing and plunged off Japan’s National Route 18, around 2km south of Karuizawa Station, in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture.
Nine men, and five women were reportedly dead following the accident.
Most of the passengers on the bus were young.
According to local police and firefighters, most of the injured were teenagers and people in their early 20s. Keyth Tours – the travel agency responsible for arranging the tour – stating that the age range of people on the bus was between 18 and 38.
Among the deceased were the two drivers of the bus, according to the bus operator, ESP. Hiroshi Tsuchiya, 65, was driving at the time of the crash, while other driver Keizo Katsuhara, 57, was also killed.
Many of the passengers were not wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash, survivors have said. No announcements were reportedly broadcast to do so prior to departure.
Tokyo Metropolitan University said that five of its students were on the bus, one of whom died in the accident. Hosei University also said that 10 of its students had been on the bus, and some were among the dead, but did not give a figure for the number deceased.
The bus had been en route to the Madarao Kogen ski resort, in northern Nagano Prefecture, at the time of the accident, according to a report by Japan Times. Departing Tokyo on Thursday night, the bus reportedly crashed around 2am Friday morning.
The road where the bus crashed was not icy, nor were there any clear breaking marks, local police said. Aerial images show the bus left the road on a bend with speed warning marks painted on its surface, but they were faded.
Japan’s transport ministry has set up an accident headquarters and conducted a special audit of the bus operator, while requesting the accident investigation board look into the case.
The bus was not taking an initially planned road when the accident occurred, but the operator stated that their drivers were allowed to avoid highways and take alternative routes, based on their own discretion, for adjustments to the arrival times.
ESP director Takato Yamamoto issued an apology for the accident, and stated that he would accept any dispositions the investigation led to, according to Japan Times. Keyth Tours President Mankichi Fukuda also issued an apology, and stated that his company’s main priority was contacting the family members of passengers.