Bus hits parked trucks at rest area; two dead

Kyodo

An overnight bus rammed two parked trucks early Monday at a rest stop in Oyabe, Toyama Prefecture, killing two people and leaving dozens injured.

The bus, which departed from Sendai on Sunday night, was headed to a hot springs resort in Ishikawa Prefecture.

The accident killed bus driver Kazuya Obata, 37, and schoolteacher Yoshihiro Ono, 48, who was one of his passengers. A total of 24 people, including a truck driver, were taken to a hospital.

The bus first crashed into the back of a truck owned by Kunio Moriyama, 62, as it entered the Oyabe-gawa rest area. It then slammed into the truck of Junichi Omori, 42, destroying the driver’s seat. Moriyama got away with a minor injury and Omori was unscathed.

A witness said the bus was speeding when it entered the rest area. The police are investigating.

Masaki Aonuma, president of Miyagi Transportation Corp., which runs the bus, told reporters Monday that he was “deeply sorry for the accident.”

According to Aonuma, Obata, the bus driver, was diagnosed last year with possible sleep apnea and his situation needed monitoring. But other health checks showed he had no such problem.

According to the company and other sources, a 53-year-old substitute driver was also on board who was taking turns with Obata. Obata started taking his turn 2½ hours before the accident and was supposed to take a break after passing the Oyabe-gawa rest area.

Obata joined the company in 2007, and has been driving an expressway bus since 2011. He drove a route bus in Sendai on Saturday and began his shift at 8 p.m. Sunday before getting into the overnight bus in front of Sendai Station that night.