National

Five facing imprisonment over fatal crush on Akashi overpass

Kyodo

Prosecutors demanded prison terms Thursday for five people charged with negligence over a fatal crush on an overcrowded pedestrian overpass in Akashi, Hyogo Prefecture, in July 2001.

Eleven people died in the incident, most of them children. The crush occurred as people made their way back from a fireworks display.

The prosecutors demanded 3 1/2-year terms each for a former policeman, a former Akashi city official and a former security company official, and terms of three years and 2 1/2 years for two other Akashi city officials.

The former policeman, Tsuneo Kanazawa, 54, was an officer in charge of crowd control at Akashi Police Station. The two other defendants facing 3 1/2-year terms are Mitsuhiro Bungyoku, 61, then head of the city government department in charge of the fireworks, and Keiichiro Nitta, 62, then a senior employee of Fukuoka-based security company Nisikan Co.

Prosecutors said, “Each of the defendants is trying to transfer blame to another party.” There is no evidence of soul-searching on the part of the five, they said.

All five defendants have pleaded not guilty, arguing the accident was unforeseeable.

Prosecutors said the defendants could have anticipated the danger of a crush but neglected to take action.

The indictment cites neglect by the authorities, though the prosecutors did not indict the city, the police force or the security firm.

The accident occurred on a pedestrian overpass linking a railway station and a beach where the fireworks show was being held on July 21, 2001. Some people fell down on the extremely crowded overpass, causing a crush that killed nine children and two women and injured 247 others.

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