• Kyodo

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Hyogo Prefectural Police on Monday raided the Akashi Police Station and Akashi Municipal Office in their probe of alleged professional negligence resulting in death and injury in connection with last month’s fatal crush after a fireworks event in Akashi, Hyogo Prefecture.

Investigators search the Akashi Police Station in connection with the fatal crush of 11 people after a fireworks event in the city in July.

Eleven people, including nine children, were killed and over 200 were injured in the incident, which occurred on a crowded pedestrian overpass.

The city, which organized the July 21 fireworks display, allegedly drew up a faulty crowd-control plan, while Akashi police, who were in charge of managing the flow of people that evening, are suspected of mishandling the operation, according to the prefectural force.

It is rare for municipal authorities and police to be investigated for a fatal accident blamed on extreme crowding. The Kobe District Public Prosecutor’s Office cooperated in Monday’s raids in an effort to ensure fairness, since the case involves police.

Monday’s searches followed the investigation earlier this month of Nisikan, a Fukuoka-based private security company that was in charge of crowd control at the Akashi event that night.

Investigators have been conducting voluntary hearings with Akashi police and municipal officials, and police sources said that none of the three parties — the police station, the city and the security company — will be able to escape criminal responsibility for the disaster.

However, each side has given conflicting accounts of the events leading up to the fatal crush on the overpass that linked the fireworks site to the nearest train station.

The latest phase of the investigation aims to clarify the causes and parties responsible for the accident.

Investigators allege that Akashi police failed to take measures to control the crowd despite the excessive congestion on the overpass and that city officials had drawn up a faulty security plan and had not posted signs to direct people to alternative routes, thereby effectively inviting a dangerous situation.

Investigators are thus alleging that the local police and city were negligent and that Nisikan failed to take sufficient measures as the crowd swelled to dangerous levels.

Monday’s raid stunned the Akashi force. “We have voluntarily submitted whatever (evidence was) requested . . . we take this seriously,” a senior official at the police station said. Akashi Mayor Nobuhiro Okada said he takes the matter seriously and apologized again for the disaster, adding that the city will cooperate fully with the probe.

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