Service marks first anniversary of tunnel collapse

Kyodo, JIJI

Memorial rites marked the first anniversary Monday of an expressway-tunnel ceiling collapse that killed nine people and hurt two others in Yamanashi Prefecture.

Relatives of the victims laid flowers just outside the 4.7-km Sasago Tunnel, where three vehicles were trapped after the concrete ceiling collapsed and started a fire, on the Chuo Expressway.

“The accident left us in an extraordinary world, and our clock hasn’t moved since then,” said Kunio Matsumoto, 62, whose daughter, Rei, died at the age of 28.

“The accident was avoidable if (the expressway operator had) inspected and repaired that part,” Matsumoto said. “It’s clearly Central Nippon Expressway Co.’s fault.”

In May, relatives filed a damages suit at the Yokohama District Court seeking some ¥890 million in compensation from the expressway operator.

A month later, a panel at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism concluded that Central Nippon Expressway had not conducted proper inspections and maintenance over the past 12 years.