MAEBASHI, GUNMA PREF. – Police on Tuesday arrested the driver of a tour bus that crashed into a roadside wall on an expressway in Gunma Prefecture on Sunday, killing seven passengers and injuring the remaining 38.
Kazan Kono, 43, who was hospitalized in serious condition, was arrested on suspicion of negligent driving resulting in death and injury in connection with the 4:40 a.m. accident Sunday on the Kanetsu Expressway in Fujioka, Gunma Prefecture.
Kono has effectively owned up to the negligence, telling investigators he had dozed off at the time of the crash due to fatigue. There were no indications that he had applied the brakes, according to the police.
On Monday, the police searched the office of the bus operator, Rikuentai in Inzai, Chiba Prefecture, on suspicion of negligence to determine whether the accident was the result of operational mismanagement on the part of the carrier.
There was no backup driver aboard the overnight bus bound for Tokyo Disneyland, according to the tour operator that solicited the passengers for the bus tour.
The bus, which left Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, at around 10 p.m. Saturday, the first day of the Golden Week spring holiday season, was scheduled to arrive at Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, at around 7:40 a.m. Sunday, Osaka-based tour agency Harvest Holdings said.
Before becoming involved in what is being called one of the nation’s deadliest single-vehicle expressway accidents, Kono had driven a bus from Tokyo Disneyland to JR Kanazawa Station from Friday night to Saturday morning, the agency said.