National

Seven people die in fiery head-on on Gifu turnpike

Kyodo

Seven people were killed Tuesday when a truck and car collided head-on and burst into flames at the mouth of an expressway tunnel in Gujo, Gifu Prefecture, police said.

The two people in the truck, which apparently crossed the center line as it was about to emerge from the Hirayama Tunnel, and all five in the car were killed in the 7:25 a.m. accident on the Tokai-Hokuriku Expressway, police said.

According to the license plate, the car was believed carrying Mamoru Yamamoto, 48, his wife, Mikae, 39, and their children, Mari, 16, Ryuji, 14, and Junji, 9. The family, from Shirakawa, Gifu Prefecture, were on their way to a spa resort in Mie Prefecture, an investigation has determined.

The two people in the truck are believed to have been employees of a firm affiliated with a construction company in the town of Shippo, Aichi Prefecture, heading to a construction site in Gujo.

A witness said the truck, carrying iron pipes, swerved into the oncoming lane and crashed into the car just inside the roughly 1.5-km tunnel, police said.

A passenger in the car behind the truck reported hearing a large bang, like the sound of a tire bursting, police said, adding that they were investigating the report.

In the impact, the truck climbed up onto the car and the momentum forced both vehicles out of the tunnel. An ensuing fire took about 30 minutes to extinguish.

Police said there is no central dividing barrier on that part of the expressway.

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