Parents of the people who died from the collapse of the Sasago Tunnel – part of the Chuo Expressway going into Tokyo – filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking 890 million yen (around 8.7 million US dollars) in damages from Central Nippon Expressway Co., the operator of the said expressway. The suit was filed at the Yokohama District Court, where the families of five of the nine people who perished in the accident pushed to have the operator take the responsibility for failing to repair the aging tunnel structure. The operator had admitted that the tunnel had not undergone any maintenance work on the ceiling since opening in 1977.
The five victims – three men and two women, all in their 20s from Tokyo – were found in their vehicles trapped in a stretch of 4.7-km-long Sasago Tunnel whose ceiling collapsed due to aging structural elements on the morning of December 2, 2012. The parents have expressed their hope that through the lawsuit, light will be shed on the cause of the accident and prevent a recurrence. Concrete ceiling slabs collapsed in a 130-meter section of the tunnel, this according police reports and investigations by Central Nippon Expressway. Based on these data, it was revealed that the anchor bolts used to secure the steel structure to the tunnel ceiling were the ones that most likely failed. The lawsuit seeks to prove that the Nagoya-based operator and a Tokyo-based subsidiary in charge of doing inspections and maintenance failed to conduct repairs on the ceiling despite its age, and that they also failed to conduct tests to check on the anchor bolts.
The five victims named in the lawsuit were Yohei Kobayashi, 27, Shigeyuki Mori, 27, Rei Matsumoto, 28, Wataru Ueda, 27, and Yuri Ishikawa, 28, who were friends that lived together in Tokyo and had been on the way home from a trip to Yamanashi. The lawsuit was filed in Yokohama because one of the plaintiffs lives in Kanagawa Prefecture. In light of the lawsuit, Central Nippon Expressway said that the company will continue to make efforts to make sure that this doesn’t happen again, all in “good faith.”
[via Kyodo News]
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