Ski bus crash victims’ university professor slams government, operator

Kyodo

Well-known Hosei University professor Naoki Ogi, who taught 10 students involved in last Friday’s ski bus crash has slammed the government for allowing the “horribly managed” company to stay in business.

Ogi, who is known by his nickname “Ogi Mama,” which comes from his warm and gentle character, also paid tribute to those killed in the accident in Karuizawa and spoke of the difficult path ahead for the injured survivors.

The crash, which killed 15 people and left more than 20 injured, claimed the lives of four Hosei University students.

A further six of Ogi’s students were injured.

“(The bus company is) horribly managed, it shouldn’t exist. Why is the government allowing such a company to be in business,” Ogi asked, referring to Tokyo-based ESP, which had one of its buses suspended from services over safety violations two days before the accident.

“Even if (the injured students) recover, it’ll still be difficult for me to accept the reality of everything they will have to go through (due to the accident),” he said, adding that the classmates of the victims were dealing with even greater trauma than himself.

Ogi said he visited a hospital where they were receiving treatment, but three of his requests to meet them were rejected.

“There is even a mother who won’t let the father see his daughter (because the injuries are so serious),” Ogi said tearfully at a symposium on school related incidents and accidents, held Tuesday at the Diet.

He also questioned the accuracy of media reports, which he said oversimplified the conditions of the injured people with such phrases as “nonlife-threatening” or “seriously injured.”

Following the crash, Ogi on Monday gathered all of his students, including two who were scheduled to join the ill-fated ski tour later.

He said the students were distraught, although they had sounded strong on the phone. One of his third-year students had been in tears and said he was unable to concentrate on his studies.

The funeral for one of the victims, Toshiki Nishihara, 21, was held in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, on Thursday. He was in his third year at Hosei University and wanted to become a school teacher.

Ogi said Nishihara had a particularly logical mind and submitted well-written reports. He had a healthy ambition and inspected at least 10 schools in 2015, including one in the Netherlands, to learn more.