KOFU, Yamanashi Pref. – The driver of a highway bus that backed into a parked car in a service area on the Chuo Expressway late Sunday afternoon had been driving under the influence of alcohol, local police said.
Kiyoshi Nagaoka, 50, had alcohol on his breath when investigators came to the scene of the accident, which took place at the Dangozaka Service Area in Uenohara, Yamanashi Prefecture, at around 5:40 p.m., police said Monday.
The bus bumped the car as it was backing up to park for a rest stop.
Police said they plan to turn the case of alleged Road Traffic Law violations over to prosecutors.
The bus, operated by Nagoya-based JR Tokai Bus Co., left Nagoya Station at 12:30 p.m. for Shinjuku Station in Tokyo. According to investigations, Nagaoka drank a 500-ml can of “shochu” distilled spirits while driving the bus from its depot to Nagoya Station at around noon.
A police check showed that 0.35 mg of alcohol per liter of air was detected in Nagaoka’s breath.
A passenger on the bus sent out such e-mail messages as “I think the driver is intoxicated,” and “The bus has run up on the curb.” Another passenger got up to ask the driver if things were all right as the bus was running too close to the left side of the road. However, Nagaoka was quoted only as replying that he would explain later and asked the passenger to sit down.
Recipients of the e-mail notified the carrier of these concerns at around 5:30 p.m. When company officials got in touch with Nagaoka about 20 minutes later, he said he had caused an accident, was not feeling well and was unable to drive.
After the accident, the passengers went on to Shinjuku aboard another bus.
According to JR Tokai Bus, Nagaoka has about 27 years’ experience driving a bus and for the past two years has been assigned to train other drivers.
The carrier said it sent renewed instructions to all of its seven depots calling on employees to follow the rules.
Nagaoka reported to the firm’s headquarters Monday morning and was being questioned about the details of the accident, according to company officials. He was quoted as telling the firm that he also drank a cup of shochu at his home at around 5:30 a.m. Sunday.
The can he drank while driving the bus to Nagoya Station had been purchased at a convenience store on his way to work.
Company officials told a news conference Monday that they were unable to detect anything wrong with Nagaoka during the roll call Sunday, even though he had been drinking before and after reporting for work at around 10:30 a.m.
“We will take strict disciplinary measures,” JR Tokai Bus President Kimiyuki Yoshikawa said. “I apologize from the bottom of my heart for betraying the (public’s) trust in buses.”
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