• Kyodo

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The Sapporo District Court has sentenced two men to 23 years in prison for engaging in a fatal street race in Sunagawa, Hokkaido, that ended up decimating a family of five last year.

In a rare judicial decision Thursday, the court ruled that Ryuji Tanikoshi and Ryuichi Komi, both 28, conspired to engage in reckless driving, and handed down the prison terms prosecutors had demanded.

The prosecutors argued that the pair had engaged in a conspiracy as they raced and intentionally ignored red lights. Their lawyers contended that they merely failed to notice the red lights.

The prosecutors alleged that Tanikoshi and Komi were driving at speeds of at least 100 kph on the night of June 6 and entered an intersection while ignoring a red light.

Tanikoshi, who was under the influence of alcohol at the time, drove his car into a light van at the intersection, killing Koichi Nagaoke, his wife, Fumie, both 44, and their 17-year-old daughter Megumi, and seriously injuring their 13-year-old daughter Hikari, the prosecutors said.

The couple’s 16-year-old son, Shota, was thrown out of the van by the impact and died after being caught under Komi’s pickup truck, which dragged him about 1.4 km.

Tanikoshi’s lawyers claimed he failed to spot the red light because he was looking for his sunglasses. Komi’s defense team said he could not have foreseen the accident and did not realize he was dragging the 16-year-old boy.

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