National

Vehicle in crash hits group of toddlers in Shiga Prefecture, killing 2 and injuring 13 others

Kyodo

Two children died and 13 people were injured Wednesday morning after one of two vehicles that collided hit a group of pedestrians from a nursery school in the city of Otsu in Shiga Prefecture.

The group of children, aged between 2 and 3, were taking a walk from the nursery school when the incident occurred, Shiga Prefectural Police said.

Gaku Ito, a 2-year-old boy, and Yui Harada, a 2-year-old girl, died, while 11 other children and two teachers who were with them were injured. Of the 11 children taken to the hospital, two were in critical condition but later regained consciousness, the police said. The two teachers were also taken to the hospital.

Two female drivers — Fumiko Shintate, 52, and Michiko Shimoyama, 62 — were arrested at the scene. The crash occurred at around 10:15 a.m. at a crossing in a residential area in Otsu. One of the vehicles spun into the children as they were waiting for the traffic light to change.

According to police, a car driven by Shintate was making a right turn when it collided with the minivehicle driven by Shimoyama coming from the opposite direction, which then hit the group of children.

The crossing is 200 meters away from the Leimond Nursery School attended by the children. According to local residents, preschoolers and their teachers are frequently seen taking walks in the area. There is a lot of traffic on the road near the area, they said.

Lemonkai, a Wakayama Prefecture-based social welfare group that runs the preschool, said that 70 children aged up to 5 attend the facility. Officials with the group held a news conference in Otsu later in the day and confirmed that the accident site was on the walking course used for children at the facility.

A 69-year-old man who lives near the accident site said he saw several children lying on the ground after they were hit, some of whom were not moving. Their belongings, including water bottles and other items, were scattered all over the place, he said.

“I have often seen those children take walks around here,” said Hideo Osuki, 82, another resident in the area.

“Actually, I lost my children to a traffic accident a long time ago. I can’t just think of this as someone else’s tragedy.”

Wednesday’s accident comes on the heels of a recent spate of serious car accidents in the country. On April 19 in the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo a car, apparently out of control, fatally hit a mother and her 3-year-old daughter as well as running down several pedestrians. In Kobe on April 21 a city-run bus breached a red light, fatally struck two people and left six others injured. Police are investigating the causes of the accidents.