KOBE – A public bus hit pedestrians on Sunday on a crosswalk near a major railway station in Kobe, killing two people and injuring at least six others.
Police said Yusei Nasu, 23, and Rio Yanai, a 20-year-old university student, died in the accident.
The city’s fire department said it received an emergency call at around 2 p.m. concerning the accident involving a city-run bus that occurred on a route near JR Sannomiya Station.
Police arrested Fumio Ono, the 64-year-old driver, at the scene for negligence resulting in death.
“The bus suddenly accelerated and hit people,” Ono was quoted by police as saying.
Ono also said he had stepped on the brake pedal after he dropped off all the passengers at a bus stop near the scene, according to the police.
The driver was quoted as saying he was supposed to stop at a line immediately before a pedestrian crossing when the vehicle sped up.
Ono, who joined Kobe’s transportation bureau in 1986, has decades of experience as a bus driver. In an incident in 2010, a passenger fell as he started his bus, according to the bureau.
An official at the bureau said there had been no reported instances in which Ono had confused the accelerator and brake pedals.
Ono went to work as usual on Sunday, according to his wife.
The accident happened on a prefectural road with four lanes on either side in one of Kobe’s main shopping districts. The bus came to a halt after it smashed into the center divider.
“We sincerely apologize that our city-run bus caused a terrible accident,” Naoki Naito, a senior executive of the transportation bureau, said at a press conference.
Pedestrians at the accident site were shaken.
“I can’t believe such an accident occurred,” said Kaito Otoma, a 20-year-old student who was crossing the road with others when he saw the bus slowly move toward them despite the red light.
Otoma said he moved away quickly and was saved but the young woman in front of him was hit.
The driver then got off the bus and was speaking frantically on his cellphone, according to the student.
“If I had made one wrong step, I would have been a victim, too,” Otoma said.