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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 November 22 - 28  > Expressway company president indicted over fatal Sasago tunnel accident
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2017 November 22 - 28 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Expressway company president indicted over fatal Sasago tunnel accident

November 24, 2017
Five years after a fatal accident in a highway tunnel, the highway company’s president may face trial on a charge of professional negligence resulting in death. Police officials on November 22 announced that they will send the case to public prosecutors.

In December 2012, at the Sasago Tunnel on the Chuo Expressway in Yamanashi Prefecture, 140 meters of ceiling collapsed, killing nine people, including five in their 20s. The following year, families of the five officially requested the Yamanashi Prefectural Police to question executives of the highway company.

The prefectural police on November 22 met with the families and explained that later this month the police will send documents concerning the fatal accident to the local public prosecutors’ office. People cited in the documents are the then president of Central Nippon Expressway (NEXCO) and three executives of NEXCO and its subsidiary as well as some workers who supervised maintenance work in the tunnel at that time.

After hearing the explanation, the bereaved families issued a statement. It states, “Executives at that time gave top priority to profit-seeking activities and pressured workers to reduce the frequency of maintenance. We think that the executives are responsible for our five children’s deaths.” It also stressed that the objectives of a criminal trial should be set to determine what caused the accident, who should be blamed, and what must be done to prevent a recurrence.

Later on the same day, the bereaved families held a press conference in Kanagawa Prefecture. While expressing their expectations for the court to reveal the cause of the accident and any relevant information, they showed their disappointment over the fact that police investigators concentrated only on those who were at the office at the time of the deadly accident.

The father of a 28-year-old male victim said that police should have pointed an accusing finger not only at people who allowed substandard maintenance work but also those who gave the green light to the problematic design of the Sasago Tunnel. The father of another victim said, “There should be more people to be held responsible for the tragedy.”

Past related articles:
> 30% cut in maintenance budget kills 9 in tunnel accident [December 19, 2012]
> Operator of collapsed tunnel prioritized profits over safety [December 6, 2012]

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