Relatives of nine victims who died in the collapse of the Sasago tunnel ceiling in Yamanashi Prefecture on Dec 2, 2012, gathered at the site on Monday to attend a memorial ceremony.
Central Nippon Expressway Co (NEXCO) executives and transport ministry representatives also attended the ceremony at 8 a.m. in Tsuru, Fuji TV reported. In all, about 100 people were present and observed a moment of silence.
The nine victims were in three vehicles when concrete panels suspended from the roof of the tunnel crashed down and crushed the vehicles, setting several ablaze.
After the accident, NEXCO reported that the emergency inspection of the tunnel’s south-bound lane had revealed defects in 670 locations. The bolts which fix the ceiling panels to the nearly 4.7-kilometer-long tunnel were loose or corroded in roughly 632 places. In other parts of the tunnel, the concrete ceiling of the tunnel was cracked.
Takekazu Kaneko, former chief of Nagoya-based NEXCO, Hisashi Iwata, former head of its Tokyo-based road maintenance subsidiary, and six other are executives were referred to prosecutors on suspicion of negligence resulting in deaths and injuries.
Relatives of the victims claimed that Kaneko and the others failed to take necessary steps during an inspection in September 2012 to prevent an accident even though the checkup showed that the bolts used to anchor a steel structure to the tunnel ceiling were becoming loose, posing a danger of a collapse.
The period for the checkup was also shortened to prioritize another inspection at a different site, while the procedure was simplified as scaffolding that consumes time to dismantle was not used, the investigators said.
In March 2018, prosecutors decided not to proceed with the case and the indictment was dropped.© Japan Today