KOBE – Five people, including three children, were killed and 22 others were injured Saturday morning in a four-vehicle collision in an expressway tunnel in Ako, Hyogo Prefecture, police said.
The accident occurred at 6 a.m. in the Takayama Tunnel on the Sanyo Expressway.
Police confirmed that two of the dead were Takeru Senda, 26, and Hirofumi Tamaki, 30, from the city of Okayama.
The police also found the charred bodies of three children in a passenger car driven by Chiharu Takahashi, 30, also from Okayama.
Authorities later identified them as Tamaki’s daughters Sayaka, 3, and Yuka, 2, and Takahashi’s 3-year-old son, Ryusei.
The accident, which occurred some 200 meters from the tunnel’s exit, involved two passenger cars, a van and a large truck.
According to the police, the truck rear-ended Takahashi’s car, causing the pileup. The truck, the van and the car went up in flames, the police said.
Takahashi and the children, as well as the two men who were killed, were in the same group, heading to a secondhand car dealership in Kobe from Okayama, the police said. Takahashi sustained slight injuries.
According to investigations, the van got a flat tire and the two men were trying to fix it when the collision occurred.
Later Saturday, police arrested the driver of the truck, Hiroaki Komiya, 31, from Fukuoka, for allegedly causing death and injuries through professional negligence.
He was unharmed in the accident. He was quoted as telling police he had been looking down at his speedometer just before the crash and when he looked up, he saw a stopped vehicle just ahead of him.
Twenty of the 22 injured, aged 8 to 66, including firefighters, were taken to a hospital but their injuries were described as minor, police said.
Bon rush begins
Tokyo’s Haneda airport and major railway stations were crowded Saturday with vacationers returning to their hometowns or tourist spots ahead of the traditional Bon holidays next weekend.
The airport and stations are expected to be most crowded Thursday and again Aug. 15, when the travelers return.
Crowds of vacationers, especially families and groups of young people, began showing up in the early morning at the domestic departure lounge in Haneda airport. Some flights, especially those bound for Hokkaido and Okinawa, were full, airline officials said.
Travelers with big suitcases and bags full of souvenirs lined up on the platforms of JR Tokyo and Ueno stations, with some outbound bullet trains on the Tohoku, Yamagata and Akita Shinkansen lines trains near capacity.
Numerous traffic jams formed on outbound highways, some extending up to 23 km on the Tomei Expressway linking Tokyo with Nagoya and 26 km on the Chuo Expressway connecting the capital with Komaki, Aichi Prefecture.