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Japanese driver raced on despite accidents

Even after hitting many pedestrians at the intersection, Fujisaki did not stop and kept driving fast to the north. -Yomiuri Shimbun/ANN

Sat, Apr 14, 2012
The Yomiuri Shimbun/Asia News Network

KYOTO - Kyoto's famous Gion district, where tourists crowded the streets Thursday to enjoy cherry blossoms in full bloom, turned into a scene of horror as onlookers watched a minivan enter an intersection against a red light and crash into pedestrians without reducing its speed.

The car finally stopped after smashing into a utility pole about 190 meters north of the intersection, eyewitnesses said.

The accident ultimately killed seven pedestrians and the driver.

Driver Shingo Fujisaki, 30, first caused a minor accident on Yamato-oji-dori avenue in Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto.

A 63-year-old taxi driver said he felt a shock from the rear of his cab while he was driving at about 30 kph.

He pulled over on the left side of the avenue, but Fujisaki's minivan passed by on the right without stopping.

Fujisaki then sped northward on the narrow avenue and soon reached an intersection of the avenue and Shijo-dori street, about 170 meters away from the collision with the taxi.

Eyewitnesses said the next accident occurred just after traffic signals to the north and south turned red.

The vehicle passed other cars waiting on the righthand side for the signal to change and entered the intersection.

Right at this time, pedestrians began crossing the avenue in the east-west direction after the traffic signals for them turned green.

There was only one long blast from the horn in Fujisaki's vehicle as it plowed through pedestrians.

Takashi Yoneda, a 29-year-old photographer in Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, was hit from behind while waiting for the traffic signal to change on his bicycle. He was only slightly injured.

"The driver didn't apply his brakes at all, and the vehicle didn't make any moves to avoid hitting people," Yoneda said.

According to witnesses, seven or eight people lay in the middle of the intersection immediately after the accident, and five or six of them already appeared unconscious.

People's belongings, such as backpacks and eyeglasses, were scattered around the scene, and some victims were bleeding and groaning.

Other passersby administered cardiac massages and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, according to the witnesses.

Even after hitting many pedestrians at the intersection, Fujisaki did not stop and kept driving fast to the north.

The minivan made contact with another taxi and finally crashed into the utility pole.

A man riding a bicycle was trapped under the car but was rescued by passersby, the witnesses said.

Men who had chased after the vehicle shouted at Fujisaki, "What are you doing?"

But Fujisaki, wearing a suit in the driver's seat, looked absentminded and was apparently unable to speak.

Conflicting reports

Fujisaki reportedly began working in a kimono store in September 2008 after graduating from a university in Kyoto.

He was involved in sales activities, including distributing goods to frequent customers, and his superior praised Fujisaki as energetic and an excellent employee.

Fujisaki lived with his parents.

On Thursday, his elder sister met reporters on behalf of his parents, who had gone to the hospital.

His sister said Fujisaki suffered from epilepsy, and that his family had worried about him driving a car for work.

She said Fujisaki told his family he had informed his employer of his condition, but the kimono store denied being informed of this.

The president of a Kyoto hospital that Fujisaki regularly visited said, "I can't disclose the name of his condition, but I had repeatedly told him and his family he should stop driving. I don't know if his condition is connected to this accident."

According to the Kyoto prefectural government, Fujisaki renewed his driver's license on March 5 but did not report his condition even though he was required to do so by the Road Traffic Act.

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