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NEXCO-Central ordered to pay damages on 2012 tunnel collapse, will not appeal ruling

JIJI

Central Nippon Expressway Co., or NEXCO-Central, has decided not to appeal a court ruling ordering it and a subsidiary to pay a total of ¥443 million in damages to the families of five people killed in a December 2012 tunnel collapse.

The ruling, handed down by the Yokohama District Court last month, was finalized early Wednesday.

In a statement released Tuesday, the Nagoya-based company said it will “sincerely accept” the ruling, which blamed problems in its checking and maintenance systems for the accident in the Chuo Expressway’s Sasago Tunnel in Yamanashi Prefecture.

Nine people were killed when the tunnel’s false ceiling collapsed, crushing vehicles beneath about 270 concrete slabs.

The NEXCO-Central group will make every effort to prevent similar accidents and improve safety, with a strong determination that such an accident will never be repeated, the statement said.

Some relatives of the victims expressed misgivings about how the company responded to the incident.

“I have mixed feelings,” said Shinichi Ishikawa, 66, the father of Yuri Ishikawa, 28, who was killed in the accident. “I wish the company had admitted its misconduct from the beginning, given that it has decided not to appeal the ruling. The measures to prevent similar incidents that we have sought are still far from being realized.”

The court ordered NEXCO-Central, operator of the tunnel, and its subsidiary in charge of maintenance and safety checks for the tunnel to pay damages to five people killed in the accident, finding that they bore liability for negligence. The court said the accident could have been foreseen and that the firms failed to perform their duties to carry out detailed safety checks.

The families of the five victims have also filed a lawsuit against four former executives of NEXCO-Central and the subsidiary, including former President Takekazu Kaneko. The ruling in that suit is scheduled for Feb. 16.