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Japan badminton player Momota injured in fatal car crash in Malaysia

This photo shows a van carrying Japanese badminton player Kento Momota that crashed into a truck early on Jan. 13, 2020 in Kuala Lumpur. (Photo courtesy of Fire and Rescue Department of Malaysia/Kyodo)
Japan's Kento Momota poses with his medal after defeating Denmark's Viktor Axelsen during men single final of the Malaysia Masters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Jan. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Kien Huo)
Malaysian former badminton player Lee Chong Wei speaks to the media after visiting Kento Momota at Putrajaya hospital in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on Jan. 13, 2020. (AP Photo)

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia (Kyodo) -- A van carrying Japan's Kento Momota, the world No. 1 men's badminton player, crashed into a truck early Monday morning, killing the driver, while three other passengers also suffered non-life-threatening injuries, authorities said.

The accident occurred just hours after Momota won the Malaysia Masters men's singles. Japanese coach Yu Hirayama, Japanese trainer Akifumi Morimoto and William Thomas, a British technical adviser for the Badminton World Federation, were also on board.

The Fire and Rescue Services Department said the van crashed into the back of a 30-ton lorry carrying sand on a highway on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur at around 5 a.m., killing the 24-year-old Malaysian driver. The passengers were sent to a hospital in Putrajaya, the federal administrative capital.

According to statements from the Serdang district police and the Badminton Association of Malaysia, Momota sustained a fractured nose as well as cuts to his lips and face.

But the Japanese badminton association says that even though Momota was bruised all over his body and sustained injuries to his chin and forehead, it has no information indicating he had a fractured nose.

Hirayama suffered cuts on his right shin and Morimoto a concussion and a broken arm, while Thomas had cuts to his forehead and lower limbs. All are reported to be in a stable condition.

An official with the Badminton Association of Malaysia said Momota and the others were heading to Kuala Lumpur International Airport when the accident happened. The Japanese were heading for Tokyo, while Thomas was going to Jakarta.

The badminton champion and others involved in the accident received a steady stream of high-profile well-wishers at the hospital, including Lee Chong Wei, Malaysia's former world No. 1, and Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali, the wife of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

The 93-year-old had watched Momota play at the finals on Sunday.

Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad, who visited the injured passengers with Japanese Ambassador to Malaysia Hiroshi Oka, told reporters after his visit that there was "nothing major" in the CT scans done on Momota.

Lee told reporters that Park Joo Bong, the head coach of Japan's national team, believes Momota would require at least two weeks' rest.

Momota, who missed the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics due to a suspension for illegal gambling, won 11 international meets last year, and is hoping to become Japan's first Olympic badminton gold medalist in men's singles at the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

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