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9 passengers hospitalized after east Japan bus driver 'spaced out,' hit traffic light

The bus that crashed into a traffic light pole is seen in Mihama Ward in the city of Chiba on June 8, 2020. (Mainichi/Tatsuya Naganuma)

CHIBA -- Nine passengers who were riding a bus in this eastern Japan city have been taken to hospital after the vehicle collided with a traffic light pole at an intersection in the early afternoon of June 8.

The youngest of the group sent to hospital was aged 5, while the oldest was in their 80s. One elderly woman was treated for serious injuries including a broken rib. None of the people involved in the accident in Chiba, the capital of the prefecture of the same name, are said to be in a life-threatening condition.

According to Chiba Nishi Police Station, Junichi Takeuchi, 42, the bus driver and employee at the service's operating company, was arrested at the scene on suspicion of negligent driving causing injury. The bus route passes a shopping mall in the city's Mihama Ward, and police said the incident itself occurred at an intersection close to the roundabout in front of JR Kaihimmakuhari Station.

While traveling along city roads, the bus appears to have for some reason collided with traffic signal equipment in the median strip dividing the road. Regarding the accident, Takeuchi reportedly said, "I don't remember clearly, but I'd spaced out."

The bus service operator, Chiba Kaihin Kotsu, reported that no issues had been found with Takeuchi's health during that morning's roll-call before leaving the depot. Police are continuing to investigate for a more detailed cause.

(Japanese original by Tatsuya Naganuma, Chiba Bureau)

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