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Transport authorities inspect Kobe city bus over fatal accident

This April 21, 2019 photo shows a public bus that hit pedestrians, killing two people and injuring six others, near JR Sannomiya Station in Kobe. (Kyodo)

KOBE (Kyodo) -- Transport authorities inspected the headquarters of the public bus service of Kobe on Monday after one of its buses rammed into pedestrians in the western Japan city a day earlier, leaving two dead and six others injured.

The bus failed to stop even after hitting the people on a crosswalk near JR Sannomiya Station and crashed into the dividing strip, according to eyewitnesses.

Local police suspect the accident, which occurred soon after the bus pulled away from a stop, was caused by driver error.

The local branch of the transport ministry inspected the bus operator's office to check its overall operational plans and records of vehicle inspection. Senior officials were also interviewed.

A man who witnessed the accident said the bus ignored a red light, hit the pedestrians, veered to the right and crossed four lanes before crashing into the dividing strip. A bicycle was found wedged beneath the bus.

Fumio Ono, the 64-year-old driver of the bus, has told investigators he was pressing the brake pedal and preparing for departure when the bus suddenly accelerated and hit the pedestrians, according to police. He has been arrested on suspicion of violating the law on inflicting death or injury on others by driving a motor vehicle.

The Kobe transport bureau said it found no abnormalities with the brakes or accelerator of the bus in an inspection conducted before it left the depot.

The accident, which occurred Sunday afternoon, killed Rio Yanai, a 20-year-old university student from Akashi, Hyogo Prefecture, and Yusei Nasu, a 23-year-old part-time worker in Kobe, the police said, adding that six other people in their 20s to 50s were injured.

Nasu had been working at a supermarket in Kobe for about two years and was taking a day off on Sunday. "He was a sincere and nice person, who would do his job properly," said an official at the supermarket.

Shigeki Azumi, the vice principal of the Akashi Nishi High School that Yanai attended, said her former classroom teacher had told him that Yanai chose to pursue her studies in the hopes of helping others. She had been working as a volunteer teacher for elementary school students.

"This is terribly shocking and regrettable," the teacher was quoted by Azumi as saying.

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