A former temporary worker at Mazda Motor Corp. hit 11 Mazda employees with a car Tuesday morning at the automaker’s plant in the city of Hiroshima, killing one and injuring the others, police said.

Toshiaki Hikiji, 42, of Hiroshima, was driving a Mazda Familia at around 7:35 a.m. as workers were beginning to arrive at the Ujina plant.

He fled the scene after hitting the workers but called the police, who found him on a mountain in the nearby town of Fuchu and arrested him.

Hikiji said he was fired by Mazda in April and held a “grudge” against the firm, the police said. He was carrying a knife at the time of his arrest.

Of the 11 workers, all of whom were male, Hiroshi Hamada, 39, died and two others were seriously hurt. The other eight sustained minor injuries.

Mazda confirmed that Hikiji had worked for the company, starting March 25. He was assigned to the plastics division April 1 but left the company April 14 for personal reasons, according to the automaker. He actually worked a total of eight days, it said.

“As far as we know, there have been no particular events involving him, such as getting into trouble with someone,” a Mazda official said in a hastily arranged news conference.

Hikiji was quoted by the police as saying, “I hit humans because I was feeling irritated. I meant to kill them.” He also allegedly said he intended to get out of his car at the plant and attack workers with the knife.

The Hiroshima Prefectural Police said Hikiji first hit two workers after driving through the plant’s east gate, then proceeded to hit the nine others.

Mazda, hit by declining sales amid the global recession, reduced output by more than 148,000 vehicles in fiscal 2008 through the end of March 2009 and terminated contracts with around 2,000 temporary workers starting in fall 2008, some of whom have sued the automaker.

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