A 7-year-old girl and a woman were killed and eight others were injured in Kameoka, Kyoto Prefecture, on Monday morning when a car driven by a teenager plowed into a group of mostly children as they were walking to a nearby elementary school, police said.
The 18-year-old driver, whose name has been withheld because he is a minor, was arrested on suspicion of negligent driving resulting in injuries. He apparently had no valid driver’s license and was in the minicar with two friends at the time of the crash.
His friends, also 18, were arrested on suspicion of letting an unlicensed person drive.
The three were believed to have been on an all-night driving spree, according to the police.
The driver said he was dozing at the time of the crash, sources said, adding that no signs of braking attempts were found at the accident site.
After hitting the children and a woman, the minicar stopped after smashing into a flower bed on the side of the road. The two fatalities were identified as Mao Odani, 7, and Yukihi Matsumura, 26. The police said earlier that Matsumura, who was taking the children to school at the time of the crash, suffered a miscarriage.
The accident involved nine children in the first to fifth grades. Nao Yokoyama, an 8-year-old third-grader, and Ruki Nishida, a 6-year-old first-grader, remained unconscious and in serious condition, while three others were badly injured and another three suffered lighter injuries, police said.
The accident took place in a residential area some 2.5 km east of JR Kameoka Station and close to the school. The road is about 6 meters wide, and between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., designated as a one-way route.
An eyewitness said the car smashed into the children from behind as they were making their way to a school nearby.
A 64-year-old woman who lives nearby said the site is a traffic hazard because it has a sharp curve and no guardrails on either side. Other accidents have frequently occurred there, she said.
Ikuo Kuriyama, a 51-year-old postmaster at nearby Kameokashino Post Office, said he ran out of his house behind the post office after hearing the crash and ensuing mayhem at around 8 a.m.
When Kuriyama arrived at the scene, seven or eight children were bleeding from the forehead and arms, and nearly everyone was lying on the ground, he said.
Meanwhile, in front of the elementary school, many parents gathered and tried to find out the identities of the injured children.
“If the accident had occurred five minutes later, my child could have been the victim,” one of the mothers said. “I can’t believe what happened.”