SAITAMA – Two nursery school children were killed and 14 others were injured when a car slammed into a group of them as they were being escorted to a park Monday in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, police said.
Yumeno Osanai, 4, and Hinako Moriyama, 3, were confirmed dead, police said. They were among a group of 33 children, aged 1 to 6, and five Kobato nursery school employees walking in line along the side of the street when the car plowed into them at around 10 a.m.
Of the injured, two, Yuzuki Fukuchi, 5, and Moena Hirai, 5, were in critical condition as of Monday evening.
Hideyuki Izawa, the 37-year-old driver, was arrested for professional negligence.
“I was on my way home and was not paying attention,” he reportedly told police.
The accident occurred some 250 meters from the nursery school and the children and staff were on their way to a nearby park.
The 6-meter-wide road has no center line or pedestrian-protective guardrails, according to police.
The vehicle apparently also struck a utility pole on the street and left skid marks.
At around 11:30 a.m., parents of the children began flocking to hospitals where the injured were taken.
In front of Kawaguchi Municipal Medical Center, which took in six victims, both children and nursery school staff, a mother was calling out for her child and asking a nurse if her child had survived.
The accident site was like a living hell.
An 18-year-old witness said Izawa was driving at a high speed and his car knocked one of the kids several meters, making a loud noise on impact.
Most of the children were knocked down and many cried out to their friends, but some appeared lifeless, said the college student, who was taking a walk at the time.
A 77-year-old woman who lives nearby said she heard the children screaming and ran out of her house.
“I tried to talk to a girl lying on the street, but she didn’t respond,” the woman said.
Another woman said the scene paralyzed her.
“I was so frightened (by the accident) that I was unable to move,” she said.
Akira Igarashi, who runs a tatami shop, said he also heard the children scream.
“When they pass by my shop, they usually are happy to see my dog, which they think is big,” he said, becoming speechless.
Sadao Seki, head of the nursery school, was stunned when told of the accident. He later voiced his sorrow for the parents of the dead, police said.
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