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Japanese bus driver apologizes to victims over fatal crash in Utah

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Thanks nichibotsu for clearing that up. I hope the tour company is reprimanded as well with operating license revoked. Mikuni is getting shafted but in all possibility he could have spoke up and refused to drive in the state he was in and should be punished to some degree. In light of the evidence, the company can and should be sued by the survivors and family.

I'm just waiting for sfjp330 to continue to blame the accident on Ford E350 design problems.

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Actually we do know the true circumstances of the crash. Because a company I work for at times was involved, I also went to the hospital to help out with translation. 4 survivors straight up said that he was going to fast and that they were worried about his driving soon after departing Vegas. The car was fine there were no maintenance problems. I personally would not drive a glorified hotel shuttle at 80 mph, but that is what the company ordered. When I say company, I mean the Japanese agent. Just 2 weeks before this accident I did a tour with 13 people on a full size coach. The only reason I can think they went with a mini-coach with 14 people is money.

For those that asked, we do have breaks every 2 hours on these tours. I have customers.....when I say I drive 6-10 hours in a day, it doesn't mean we don't stop for snacks, water, and the bathroom. I usually try to put a stop in every 90 minutes. The day he crashed was a 6 hour driving day that included 3 breaks and hiking at Zion somewhere in between. 2 survivors told me they saw him dosing off and felt horrible for not saying anything to possibly prevent the accident.

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I am not sure if Mikuni got a fair trial. I doubt these average jury members that convicted him really understand how easy to roll over the Ford E350 passenger van. This could happen to anybody that that drives this van and make sharp turn. In a same situation, if he was driving a family van with 14 of his family members and friends, I doubt that the same jury will convict him for possible 15 years in prison. With a limited money, Mikuni probably had a lawyer that really didn't do a good job to defend him.

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Mr. Mikuni made a terrible mistake and now has to pay the price. But at some point he will have to release the burden in order to stop suffering and strive to live healthy and again enhance his social life. Unforgiveness will be his culprit and for him to eventually restore optimism and a positive attitude, he will have to go beyond his feelings and choose to forgive himself. Although he will never forget what happened. After all forgiveness is a private affair. May you have the courage and strength to endure until the end.

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Sorry, but you can't totally blame the guy because we apparently will never know the true circumstances of the accident. It's very possible the bus company engaged in unethical business practices or that the bus was poorly maintained.

Bus companies in the US have an extremely poor track record for safety violations, operating under suspended licenses, operating unsafe vehicles, etc. etc.

Here's source to give you an idea: http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2011/jun/15/unsafe-bus-companies-repaint8212and-dodge/ Yeah, companies actually get shut down and then just repain their fleet and operate under a new name.

That story relies on previous reporting from the AP, the NYT, and USA Today and a quick google search should yield those stories as well.

Don't be so quick to blame the guy just because he engaged in what was clearly recreational, non-problematic marijuana use in his free time.

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I saw a brand new Ford eXtend-A-van on I70 in the middle of Missouri today -so they still make it.

This E350 is actually a truck chassis with a fiberglass transport body on back. Not really the same vehicle and also used extensively for small RVs.

Up high, long, with a flexy suspension is never good. A van is like an aluminum can when in a accident and I'm sure fiberglass is even worse. You think you are safe in these big boxes, but they really fall apart in accidents where as a curved piece of metal will hold together better.

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FadamorJul. 28, 2011 - 10:14PM JST. The driver lost control of his vehicle and over-corrected, resulting in the roll-over.

Partly to blame is the drivers inexperiece. However, if E-350 had independent suspension, and under same condition, most likely, it would not roll over. If you had early 1990's version of Explorer or Expedition with fixed solid axle and test compare with the later version, a early 2000's with independent suspension, the early model will roll over and most likely a later version will not roll. If rollover was not a problem, why do you think Ford spend millions of dollars on Explorer and Expedition to change to independent suspension? For looks? There is still many pending lawsuits against Ford Vans from this problem.

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hoipolloiJul. 28, 2011 - 11:06AM JST. Alright then here's something to think about: if the Ford E-350 is so dangerous as you say then why was it chosen by this Japanese tour company to use in its fleet?

The main reason why Ford E-350 passenger car is used frequently for commercial purpose is that it's cheap to buy, maintain, and most space for the money. They are very dependable and have great 5.4 engine than can go 250-300K Miles without problems. I've driven the same vehicle on similar conditions, and if you drive 75 mph or more, they can be unstable when you pass a big truck with the sudden burst of wind. The back axle becomes unstable. You don't realize how unstable until it actually happens. I don't believe Mikuni had much experience or idea of E-350 limitations and capabilities. If you have 14-15 passengers in this vehicle, the only safe way to drive is under 65mph.

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Why would you intentionally make sudden turns at 75 mph while carrying 14 passengers?

The question is invalid. No one but no one is saying he or anyone did it intenionally. But in an accident situation, a more stable vehicle is certainly preferred, and if a vehicle keeps rolling in accident situations while others don't, well, that is a problem.

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@sfjp330:

If you drive sudden 30 degree turns at 75mph, which van will likely rollover?

Question: Why would you intentionally make sudden turns at 75 mph while carrying 14 passengers?

Answer: You would NEVER do that.

Ergo: The driver lost control of his vehicle and over-corrected, resulting in the roll-over. I realize you have an axe to grind with Ford - maybe even know somebody who was injured in one - but that doesn't change one iota the fact that THE DRIVER INITIATED THAT TURN. THE VEHICLE DIDN'T JUST SUDDENLY TURN ON ITS OWN. I stand by my previous statement. You get ANY vehicle sideways at 75 mph and it WILL roll.

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sfjp330:

You're funny, dude. Mikuni admitted to falling asleep at the wheel and the police have already deemed the accident to be 100% driver error. Any vehicle would have flipped travelling at 75mph which is what the speed of the van was travelling at the time of the accident. No amount of "better weight distribution, low center of gravity" etc. is going to counter a fully loaded vehicle going 75mph with a sleeping driver. Period. Can you try to think within the parameters of the accident at hand instead of trying to pull out general statistics that don't relate at all? Or should we all try to blame the design of our vehicles the next time we fall asleep at the wheel at high speeds and cause an accident? How you can bring Toyota Siennas into this conversation is beyond me (I know it's because you want to divert attention away from the fact that a Japanese driver was negligent, in another country no less, and that Japanese automobile technology is superior blah blah blah).

Alright then here's something to think about: if the Ford E-350 is so dangerous as you say then why was it chosen by this Japanese tour company to use in its fleet? Shouldn't they have known better to use superior Japanese vehicles to safely transport their most honorable customers? After all, the Japanese hold safety to be of the utmost importance (driver side floor mats, buggy braking systems software, nationwide food contamination and nuclear reactors in proven earthquake zones notwithstanding)?

nicihbotsu:

Japanese tour companies that engage in illegal driving? A Japanese tour industry that doesn't listen to the locals that they're allowed to do business in? Thank you for sharing with us the existence of these foreign criminals within the United States. I hope they are reported and punished for the various traffic and labor violations they have committed and that they do not cause further accidents that would also endanger the lives of local citizens who allow them to do business there.

You sound like you have a very hard schedule to maintain in your job. Do they not consider having an alternate driver along and/or schedule more frequent breaks? Or because of the shortness of Japanese holidays are they forced to abide by these sorts of grueling schedules?

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This Japanese driver was supposedly partying all night getting drunk and stoned and then driving the next morning all over the South West of the USA, real smart dude! Thanks for the aopology?? Idiot!

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I don't think Ford even makes the 5 bench seat extend-a-van anymore (NHTSA 1999 stat end). The closest thing to one now is the Dodge/Mercedes stretch van (dually optional).

=This is a Ford F350 Truck chassis with a fiberglass body added. =Looks like a small school bus. There is no way you could get adult tourists to hop the rear 2 bench seats (made for kids) in a extend-a-van.

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Fadamor Jul. 27, 2011 - 10:29PM JSTPoint 2: ANY vehicle can be rolled over if you lose control and get sideways. Siennas too.

Let's make comparison to what Mikuni was driving. Ford E-350 15 Passenger Van has extremely high center of gravity, it's an old 50 years old design, a body and frame design, heavy 5.4 cast iron engine, fixed rear axle with heavy leaf springs that is not flexable is sudden turns. And on top of that, with the skinny tires, if you load up the passengers in the van, the van becomes unstable on high speed freeway driving or windy days. There is a design flaws on the E-350. The Ford made adjustment by changing to independent suspension on Explorer, Expedition, and Navigator in the early 2000's because of the potential rollover problem. However, no changes were made in E-350 and they continue to have 20-30 year problem of rollover. The Sienna is made from unitized body, low center of gravity, independent suspension better weight distribution, the lighter 3.5litre thin casting design in the motor. The motor and transmission weighs about 150 lbs less than Ford. Do you hear any Sienna rolling over in quantities? If you drive sudden 30 degree turns at 75mph, which van will likely rollover? Fadamor, you should drive the Ford E-350.

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Ford E350 Fifteen-passenger vans were involved in 376 fatal rollover crashes in the 17 years from 1982 to 1999. Those crashes killed 581 – six of every 10 persons riding in the vans. And no recalls by Ford or NHTSA? I guess profit first for Ford instead of safety of American lives.

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@whiskeysour:

The company should be sued also.

They are. Please actually read the entire article.

@sfjp330:

Sure, driver made a minor error, but if this was a normal van like Toyota Sienna, you would not have a rollover problem.

Point 1: You're comparing apples to oranges. The Sienna would never be able to hold 15 people for an extended trip - even if you strapped some to the roof.

Point 2: ANY vehicle can be rolled over if you lose control and get sideways. Siennas too.

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The company should be sued also. That`s just crazy !!!!

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a DOT driving day is defined as 11hrs driving max in a 14hr workday. 10hr break min with 8hrs of continous sleep. -they are contending he got less than the 8hrs sleep. --> but that rule is not a strict mandate.

This van is most likely a "dually" with the top cut out and fiberglass added for extended headroom -a sort of standard for these guys. Very stable and you will see airport/handicap shuttles and schools use them.

People that have mercury/amalgam fillings or have metals in their system will fatigue easier, -smoking does not help. You need to eat a fresh vegetable diet to provide the constant energy needed for long days of work. Those 8hr energy shots (see a truck stops) are not a good idea long term but water or a sugar drink while driving is. These tour operators stop every 2-3 hrs anyway for breaks. If he was fatigued he could have easily took a break.

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The company asked him and he said yes.

Yeah. They always just "ask". Right. Sorry, but the authorities are going to make to a decision on that and I will most likely defer to them.

You say he was not forced, but if he said he had to decline the job because he was fatiqued, how quick would the asking have turned into an "Oh come on!" I have seen this pattern a million times. Also, if he declined, would he have ever been called by your company again? Maybe more care should be taken than just call a guy and send him on his way?

The day Mikuni crashed, that tour only includes around 6 hours driving that day.

Only? It might not seem like much to someone who does that sort of driving everyday, but if was an irregular, like you say, I think that is a lot. I used to drive a lot and could have done it then. But I don't drive so much now and if I go on a road trip I need a good rest after three hours.

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Sorry for repeating this everytime this subject comes up, but I work for the same company. He was not forced into anything. He actually was not even a full time employee of the company. The tour came up during a very busy time and there was a lack of guides around. The company asked him and he said yes. He was someone we knew that worked for a place in Vegas and the tour was starting from there. He was flown up to Vegas and drove the van down to start the tour the next day. Sleeping before and after driving that drive was his responsibility. The tour he was on is not a tough tour as far as driving goes. If you want to find fault with companies, how about the Japanese tour companies that will no longer use Canyon or the other local company for business, but designed their own tours from Vegas that include illegal daily driving. I have driven for many a Japanese company a 1 day Vegas to Grand Canyon and back to Vegas. 2 night 3 day Grand Cirlce tour with sunrise and sunset included. The tours were impossible to stay within the 10 hour driving 15 on duty limits. The day Mikuni crashed, that tour only includes around 6 hours driving that day. I just got off a 1400 km 3 day tour in a Ford 350, no problem with the van if you don't throw it into a sudden fishtail at 80 mph. I feel sorry for the kid, but he was naieve, irresponsible, and put in a situation that could have been averted if the Japanese tour industry would listen to the locals in the country they are allowed to do business.

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"I think His apologies are worthless and meaningless in a US Court!!."

The US doesn't have the same culture of apologizing as in Japan, but an apology that is perceived as sincere can affect a sentence in court.

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sfjp330:

I know right... Ford should also be liable for designing the S350 to be so boring that it puts drivers to sleep.

We know we can always point to Toyota for such EXCITING design features in their computer controlled "braking" systems and driver side floor mats. Those would never put drivers to sleep! Oh wait...

I'm glad that the passengers were all Japanese because they were anything but this accident would have become an international incident.

Has there been any apology/compensation from the tour company? If not, why not? Although it's not a stretch to guess why... Seems like Mikuni is being shafted from both ends for being unable to say 'no' / being overworked to the point of negligence. Oh hey, there's another reference to Toyota again!

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@BurakuminDes "His apologies are worthless and meaningless to the victims"

I think His apologies are worthless and meaningless in a US Court!!.

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tideofiron: "For all of you so quick to judge the guy about this incident, I urge you to read "Deadeye Dick" by Kurt Vonnegut to gain a different perspective about this sort of thing."

So the guy's actions were not inappropriate? The only way that holds true is if the company literally forced him to work after he objected due to fatigue. Even then he would still be to blame for ultimately caving in. Like it or not, the man bears at least a large part of the responsibility, and he has admitted as such. I don't think too many if any people think he's some sort of monster, but I do think he's stupid and obviously irresponsible.

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If the company forced him to work unreasonable hours with lack of rest they are at fault. If he partied it up in Vegas with no thought or responsibility as to the job he had to do the next day he is at fault. Not sure which it is.

But this culture in Japan of apologising, although very nice, I think I would find kind of hard to accept if i am honest. If it was my loved-one, whilst an apology would be nice to hear it would mean little to me in terms of forgiveness. If the person actually backed it up with some ACTION - for example spending his time writing letters to high schools/universities talking about the mistakes he has made and imploring young men and women to think before making the same mistakes, spending his life atoning for what he has done on his release by travelling the country speaking about what happened to him and trying to prevent the kind of accident from recurring - that might hold more sway with me.

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Investigators said they didn’t believe Mikuni was impaired while driving, but that he was sleep-deprived.

Did you read that part BurakuminDes? The man had residue in his system, but he was well over being high and even the investigators agree.

I heard that this guy had seven hours of sleep, but the timeline has never been made clear by the press. The investigators say he was fatigued, and I believe them, because I have no idea what exactly he did before and after that seven hours of sleep. I know he drove from Utah to Vegas, but I don't know if that was before or after sleeping. I don't know if he had been sleep deprived before the seven hours, but if he had, seven hours would not be enough.

He admits falling asleep at the wheel. He knew he was sleepy. So his plea of guilty is appropriate. I just feel sorry that he might not have had the spine to tell his company no. Telling your bosses no is hard enough for anyone, but Japanese are definitely don't have a hint of culture of doing that.

His company is also guilty. They were licensed to operate in Utah and had no business sending their driver to Vegas anyway.

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sfjp330 - Sure, blame the van! That will hold up in court! I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact Mikuni was smoking dope... His apologies are worthless and meaningless to the victims.

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sfjp330 : So you're are an apologist for a "minor error" by a driver that killed three. I don't see one whit of proof the van was at fault.

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"In the letter, Mikuni writes that he wonders if the crash could have been avoided if he consumed more energy drinks, slept more, or avoided smoking marijuana."

Well, DEFINITELY he needed more sleep. I don't think energy drinks help whatsoever UNLESS you are sleep-deprived. As to the weed, well, I suppose one can do without that as well, though I don't see what harm it would do unless on the job. Anyway, another sad example of a person pushing themselves (or the company pushing them) too hard with tragic results.

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If it had been a Toyota the accelerator would have just stuck to the floor... allegedly ;)

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Mikuni was driving a Ford E350 van... This van has history of rollover and stability problem and NTSA should recall for safety of American public. Sure, driver made a minor error, but if this was a normal van like Toyota Sienna, you would not have a rollover problem. That investigators who inspected the Ford E350 shuttle bus ruled out mechanical problems as a possible cause. This is more of a design flaws in the E350. Ford should also be liable.

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