On Monday, police arrested the president of the Rikuentai tour bus company, Yumihide Hariu, over the fatal highway accident in on April 29th that resulted in the death of seven passengers and injuries to 38 others. Now recognized as the country’s worst single-vehicle highway accident, a tour bus headed for Tokyo Disneyland crashed into a retaining wall on the Kanetsu Expressway, in Gunma Prefecture. The driver, Kazan Kono, admitted to police that he dozed off behind the wheel, and was charged with homicide as a result of negligent driving.
Yumihide Hariu was arrested for various violations of laws and safety standards. After seizing company documents and records shortly after the crash, investigators found enough evidence to charge Hariu with letting Kono use the Rikuentai company name to get business permits in order to conduct his own unapproved bus tours for Chinese customers. This was a violation of the government’s Road Transportation Law. Hariu has admitted to letting Kono use the company’s name, but says that no money was ever exchanged for the act.
The tour bus company’s safety policies have been called into question, specifically focusing on the lack of a relief driver on the bus at the time of the accident. While the route to Tokyo Disneyland was under the 670 kilometer limit that requires a backup driver, investigators have also determined that Kono may have gone well over the limited number of hours a driver can spend behind the wheel within a two-day window. Hariu was also neglectful in giving his drivers detailed manifests, with specific times for rest stops, arrivals, and departures, and status of Kono, a temp driver, being hired as a “day worker,” was also a violation of transport laws.
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