The mother of an epileptic crane driver who caused the deaths of six children in an accident in Tochigi Prefecture in April 2011 has been ordered by the Utsunomiya District Court to pay compensation to the victims' families.
The court on Wednesday also ordered the driver, Masato Shibata, 28, and his employer at the time -- who was aware of Shibata's epilepsy -- to pay damages, Sankei Shimbun reported Thursday. In total, the three have been ordered to pay 125 million yen in damages.
Shibata was sentenced to seven years in prison. The court said that he had been a long-term sufferer of epilepsy and had succumbed to a fit moments before the accident took place. The six elementary school students were killed on April 18, 2011, when they were run over by a mobile crane while walking to school in Kanuma, Tochigi Prefecture.
During the trial, Shibata admitted hiding his epilepsy to get his mobile crane driving license, and that he had caused accidents due to epilepsy before.
In their suit, parents of the victims said that Shibata's mother should have talked him out of applying for a job driving cranes and that his employer was culpable for allowing an epileptic person to drive a crane, Sankei reported.
The high-profile case was one of a number of similar accidents which has led the National Police Agency to introduce new penalties for drivers who fail to declare when updating their driver's licenses preexisting conditions, such as epilepsy, that could compromise road safety.
A panel of experts commissioned to study the issue found that in the last five years, 69% of drivers whose epilepsy caused a traffic accident, failed to declare their condition when renewing their driver's licenses.
On April 12 last year, a minivan crashed into pedestrians on a crowded street in Kyoto's popular Gion tourist district, killing two men and five women. Eleven others were injured in the incident. The 30-year-old driver, who apparently suffered an epileptic attack while driving, also died.
The NPA panel has recommended introducing penalties for failing to declare, when applying for or renewing a driver's license, preexisting conditions that could pose a road traffic hazard. The panel also suggested a system whereby doctors could, at their own discretion, report patients whose conditions they believe could hamper their ability to safely operate a vehicle.© Japan Today