SAPPORO – Police have arrested a man on Tuesday for allegedly dragging a 16-year-old boy under his pickup truck following a traffic accident in the city of Sunagawa, in central Hokkaido.
The late-night collision occurred on Saturday and left four members of a five-member family dead.
The body of the teenage son, who was one of the victims, was found 1.5 km away after apparently being ejected from the vehicle he was riding in and dragged along by a third vehicle.
Ryuichi Komi, a 26-year-old demolition worker, allegedly struck Shota Nagaoke with his pickup truck and kept driving with the boy trapped beneath the vehicle.
Komi has been charged in the hit-and-run after he allegedly drove away when the boy’s body became disentangled from under the truck and fell onto the road, police said.
Nagaoke had been thrown from his father’s mini-wagon in a collision with a separate vehicle that is believed to have run a red light, police said.
Investigators will question the driver of that vehicle, a 27-year-old construction worker, after he recovers from injuries sustained in the accident.
The boy’s father, Koichi Nagaoke, a 44-year-old company employee, his wife, Fumie, 44, and their daughter, Megumi, 17, died in the crash. A younger daughter was severely injured, the police said.
Concerning the hit-and-run allegation, Komi was quoted by police as saying he was not aware he had run over anyone.
During questioning by police on a voluntary basis before his arrest, however, investigators allege that Komi admitted to hitting something and said: “I fled as I didn’t take out voluntary insurance.”
Police also claim he and a passenger in his pickup had been drinking beer earlier in the evening. Police suspect he fled to avoid being checked for drunk driving.
Komi and the 27-year-old driver of the other vehicle have been friends since elementary school, according to a person who knows both of them.
Police said both of their vehicles were believed to have been speeding.
Komi is known by his neighbors to be a car enthusiast. They said they had seen him working on a modified pickup truck, which presumably was the one he was driving when police allege he ran over the boy.
Conspicuous scratches on both sides of the vehicle worried one neighbor, who said, “I thought he might get involved in a car crash some day.”
The road where Saturday’s collision occurred is known as the nation’s longest stretch of straight highway.
A man in his 20s who identified himself as a Sunagawa resident said he witnessed a passenger car and a pickup truck recklessly pass his car from behind while waiting at a stop light about 2 km from the site of the deadly collision.
The two vehicles passed him shortly before the accident happened.
He said the vehicles, which were heading in the direction of the scene of the accident, shot ahead and squeezed into the small space between his vehicle and the car in front, just as the signal turned green.
“I can’t believe those cars drove that fast in such a narrow space,” he said.
A few minutes later, further along the road, the man saw that the passenger car that had apparently overtaken him at the lights had crashed into a mini-wagon — which was likely the Nagaoke family’s vehicle.
A security camera installed at a company office about 1 km away from the crash site was also found to have captured images of two vehicles speeding toward the direction of the crash site around the time the collision took place.
“I know people sometimes drive here at high speeds but I’ve never seen any car going that fast,” said an employee who saw the footage.
A 40-year-old man from the nearby city of Utashinai, whose children are peers of the two girls involved in the accident and who attended the same elementary school as them, blamed the accident on speeding.
“If the car wasn’t driving at such a high speed, all four would be alive,” he said. “It breaks my heart.”