FUKUOKA – An elderly driver and his wife died after their speeding car entered an intersection and hit a vehicle attempting to turn in the city of Fukuoka on Tuesday night, spurring an accident that involved at least four other vehicles, police said.
A total of nine people were taken to hospitals, including Yoshimasa Kojima, 81, of Fukuoka, and his wife, Setsuko, 76, both of whom later died.
Seven others, including one pedestrian, sustained injuries that were not life threatening in the accident, in which two of the cars involved careened onto a sidewalk, authorities said.
At the intersection, which is located near Fujisaki Station on the Fukuoka City Subway network, parts of damaged vehicles were seen scattered about the road, with one vehicle flipped upside down in front of a cram school and the hood of another car heavily damaged.
Police said Kojima’s car collided with a vehicle some 600 meters before the intersection. It traveled in the opposite lane before entering the intersection and no skid marks made by his car were found on the road surface, according to investigators.
“I heard a loud bang, like something exploded,” said a 20-year-old woman who works at a restaurant near the scene.
The accident occurred in an area where a number of restaurants and offices are located, in the city’s Sawara Ward.
Acquaintances reported that Kojima had just recently commented on how he would likely need to hand in his driver’s license due to the number of accidents seen lately involving elderly drivers.
One of them was Nobuyuki Kuroiwa, 77, who had known Kojima for more than a decade. He said he recently had a chat with him about quitting driving once and for all. “This came right out of the blue. It really hurts because he was a precious friend,” Kuroiwa said.
A woman in her 40s who lived near the couple said Kojima served as the head of the neighborhood council and displayed much enthusiasm for community activities.
“I can’t believe this happened to them,” she said in shock.
Yukio Maeda, 64, another acquaintance, said Kojima “always cared about his health” because he wanted to continue golfing, his lifetime hobby, as long as he could.
Tuesday’s accident came just days after the Tokyo Metropolitan Public Safety Commission said it would revoke the driver’s license of an 87-year-old man whose car hit and killed a 31-year-old woman and her 3-year-old daughter in the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo in April.
One in 4 people aged 80 or older still drive, according to a government survey released Tuesday on the transport habits of those aged 60 or above.