Man held in suspected drunken hit-and-run after three killed at Hokkaido beach


Hokkaido police arrested a 31-year-old man Monday for allegedly hitting four women while driving a recreational vehicle near a beach in Otaru, Hokkaido, killing three of them before he fled the scene.

Masahide Kaizu of Sapporo was arrested on suspicion of hitting the women as they walked down a road near a swimming beach in Otaru.

He reportedly admitted causing the crash when he was driving alone and looking at his mobile phone. Prior to the crash, police allege, he had been drinking at the beach for about 12 hours along with some other people.

The four women — Rie Ishizaki, 29, of Sapporo, 30-year-old Yuko Kawara and 29-year-old Sayaka Harano of Iwamizawa, Hokkaido, and Natsuko Nakamura, 30, of Sapporo — were found lying on the road in the Zenibako district in Otaru at around 4:30 p.m. Sunday, the police said.

Ishizaki, Kawara and Harano were dead, while Nakamura suffered a cervical spine fracture, the police said.

The women, who were classmates in high school, were walking toward JR Otaru Station after swimming at Otaru Dream Beach when they were hit from behind, the police said.

At around 5 p.m., Kaizu was found outside his car, which was parked on a road away from where the accident occurred. The police said that when they questioned him, his breath smelled of alcohol. He reportedly told the police that he panicked and fled because he was scared, but called the police later.

“The road near the beach has no sidewalks, and since there are many people who drive at high speed, I felt the place was dangerous,” said a 74-year-old man who runs a firm nearby. The 5-meter-wide road, surrounded by bushes and woods, becomes crowded with tourists during the summer.

A 44-year-old director of an association of more than 30 shops operating at the beach voiced regret over the incident, saying they are trying to prevent drunken driving by offering nonalcohol drinks to drivers.

Kazunori Harano, the 61-year-old father of Sayaka Harano, one of the victims, said he couldn’t believe he had lost his only daughter, whom he had driven to work every morning.

“I thought the police were kidding me when they told me that the victim is my daughter,” Harano said. “I feel like I have become a living corpse.”

Elsewhere, a 26-year-old official in the Kawaguchi Municipal Government in Saitama Prefecture was arrested Sunday in connection with the death of a 65-year-old woman who was hit and dragged by a car, the police said.

Police in Bunan said they arrested Daiki Matsumura on suspicion of hitting Noriko Iguchi, who was driving a minibike when the collision occurred at around 10 p.m. Saturday at an intersection in Kawaguchi. Iguchi was found lying on the road some 1.3 km away.

The police allege that Matsumura fled the scene and that he was drunk when he turned himself in at around 4 a.m. Sunday.

Matsumura reportedly said he caused the accident on his way home from a pub run by his father, panicked and got drunk after the collision. The police are investigating whether he was drunk at the time of the accident.

At a news conference Sunday, Kawaguchi Mayor Nobuo Okunoki apologized for the fatal crash and said he would try his best to enforce the discipline of Kawaguchi municipal officials.