CEDAR CITY, Utah (Kyodo) Police are investigating a fatal bus accident involving Japanese tourists that occurred in southern Utah this week to see if they can build a case against the Japanese driver for negligence resulting in death, they said Thursday.

During a news conference, Sgt. Ryan Bauer of Utah Highway Patrol indicated that the driver’s tiredness resulting from long hours of driving across states may have been a factor that caused the crash, because it could have led to drowsiness at the wheel.

The driver, Yasushi Mikuni, a 26-year-old resident of Las Vegas, drove the small bus from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas on Sunday to pick up 14 Japanese passengers and traveled to Zion National Park in Utah on Monday.

The bus crashed north of Cedar City later Monday en route to Bryce Canyon National Park, killing three passengers and injuring the others on board. The vehicle was registered to Canyon Transportation Inc. in Salt Lake City.

Mikuni is said to have had six to seven hours of sleep Sunday, but the long travel — driving about 680 km from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas and about 360 km from Las Vegas to Cedar City via Zion National Park, normally totaling about 11 hours of driving — may have exhausted him.

Bauer said the police are under the impression from the driver’s account that he was probably tired, adding that some passengers have told police that they were worried because the vehicle veered off course occasionally.

Regulatory void

SALT LAKE CITY (AP, Kyodo) The minibus operator involved in a deadly Utah crash that killed three members of a Japanese tour group and injured 11 other passengers apparently fell between the regulatory cracks. Federal and state agencies said oversight of the small tour operator was the other’s responsibility.

Now, Canyon Transportation Inc. of the Salt Lake suburb of Sandy faces multiple investigations, the latest involving a federal agency.

Canyon Transportation could be fined for operating across state lines without a federal license, said Bob Kelleher, administrator for the Utah office of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The fine could be significant if the bus operator didn’t have enough liability insurance for interstate operations, Kelleher said. He couldn’t immediately provide any figures.

“Up until a couple of days ago, I didn’t know anything about this company,” Kelleher said. The company mostly picks up people from Salt Lake City’s airport for short rides to ski areas and wasn’t supposed to operate outside of Utah, he said.

Canyon Transportation provided the vanlike bus that picked up a group of 14 Japanese tourists in Las Vegas for a four-day tour of Utah’s national parks and Arizona’s Grand Canyon, according to the Utah Highway Patrol and tour organizers. The group set out Monday and the bus rolled that evening on Interstate 15 near Cedar City, about 402 km south of Salt Lake City.

On Thursday, the tour company offered its condolences Thursday to family members of the three Japanese tourists killed in the accident.

But it declined further comment on the accident except to say it was investigating.

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