39 injured as tour bus overturns in Hokkaido
August 19, 2017
SHIMIZU, HOKKAIDO- A large sightseeing bus carrying a total of 49 people veered off a national road, overturned and fell into the grass several meters below in the town of Shimizu in the northernmost Japan prefecture of Hokkaido on Friday.
According to sources in the Hokkaido police department, 48 of those aboard, including children, were taken to hospitals after the accident, which happened on National Route 274 around 3:45 p.m. (6:45 a.m. GMT).
At least 39 of them were hurt, with three in their 40s suffering serious injuries, the sources said.
The 58-year-old male driver of the bus is believed to have suffered a minor injury. He told police officers that he was not looking ahead at the time of the accident, the sources said.
The bus had 46 passengers aged between four and 80, who are tourists from the Tokyo metropolitan area, and three crew members including the driver, according to Abashiri Kanko Kotsu Co., the operator of the bus, and Hankyu Travel International Co., which organized the tour.
The passengers included many elderly people, said the bus operator based in the town of Ozora in Hokkaido and the travel agency based in the western Japan city of Osaka.
The tour participants left Tokyo International Airport at Haneda for Hokkaido on Thursday afternoon, and stayed the night at a hotel in the Hokkaido capital of Sapporo.
They took the bus on Friday morning. The accident occurred when the bus was heading for a rest area en route to the Akanko hot spring area in the city of Kushiro, after a visit to the city of Furano.
The driver has at least some 20 years of experience. After taking a four-day break through Monday, he drove a bus with the same itinerary as that for Friday's tour between Tuesday and Thursday.
The accident happened on a straight, slow ascent near the Tokachi-Shimizu Interchange for the Doto Expressway. The national road section where the accident occurred has one lane in each direction.
"The bus was not speeding," said a female tour guide who was on the bus.
"I know the vehicle drove over the curb, but I'm not sure" about the cause of the accident, she said.
On July 30, an Abashiri Kanko Kotsu bus driven by a different driver veered off a national route in Kushiro, slightly injuring six passengers. The accident occurred as the driver was not looking ahead carefully. Jiji Press
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