• Kyodo

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Police raided several locations Thursday related to security companies that handled crowd control at last month’s fireworks display in Akashi, Hyogo Prefecture, where 11 people were fatally crushed and 185 others hurt on an overcrowded pedestrian overpass.

According to Hyogo Prefectural Police, the investigation into alleged professional negligence resulting in death and injury focuses on Nisikan, a Fukuoka-based security company that was in charge of crowd control at the Akashi event on the night of July 21. Offices of subcontracting firms were also searched Thursday.

Investigators suspect Nisikan failed to take sufficient safety precautions in directing the crowd after the fireworks ended, leading to excessive congestion on the overpass, which linked the shoreline fireworks site with the nearest train station.

The ensuing crush killed 11 people, including nine children.

It is rare for organizers of events that attract a great number of people to be held criminally responsible for accidents that occur due to crowd movements.

Police said authorities will also look into the roles played by the municipal government, which organized the event, and the Akashi Police Station, which approved Nisikan’s crowd-control plans, and determine where responsibility lies. All parties have submitted reports detailing what occurred that day.

Thursday’s raids took place after investigators discovered that Nisikan officials attempted to shift blame for the accident by giving false statements about the crowd-control situation at the site that evening, according to police.

Investigations show that Nisikan used seven other subcontracted security companies to patrol the venue for the fireworks event.

Keiichiro Nitta, 59, head of Nisikan’s Osaka branch and the person supervising all security steps that evening, failed to take remedial measures even though the congestion on the overpass was reaching dangerous levels, police alleged.

As a result, people fell on top of one another, leading to the tragedy, they added.

Nitta received word from security staff near the overpass right before the accident that the crowd was ballooning to dangerous proportions, according to police. However, he determined the situation did not warrant steps such as limiting the number of people approaching the overpass, they said.

He has admitted to investigators that he falsified facts to place blame on police and evade responsibility as much as possible, according to police sources.

After the incident, company officials submitted a report to police that claimed that a group of rowdy youths had started a fight on the overpass and that riot police assistance had been requested. These claims were later determined to be fabrications, investigators said, adding they suspect evidence pertaining to the incident may have been destroyed.

Meanwhile, it was also discovered that the city had left the crowd control plans up to the firm, and did not have a full grasp of the situation. Akashi police also approved the plans without sufficiently checking them, investigators alleged.

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