The minivan rear-ended a taxi and sped through a red light striking several pedestrians before crashing into a utility poll. Eight people were killed, including the driver, and eight others injured.
The horrific accident happened Thursday in the crowded Gion district of Kyoto, Japan. The area was filled with tourists, taking advantage of the cherry blossoms that were in full bloom.
The accident happened around 1 p.m. According to police, the minivan, driven by a delivery man, hit a taxi and kept going without stopping or reducing speed. The van then sped through a red light, striking a group of pedestrians crossing the street in front of him. The minivan kept going and struck other cars before crashing into a telephone poll.
The driver has been identified as Shingo Fujisaki, 30. He was alone in the vehicle at the time.
Kyodo News reports that Fujisaki's family said the man suffered from epilepsy. Police are treating the case as "negligent driving causing death and injury." They are investigating whether the driver's illness played any part in the accident.
The Mainichi reports that the driver's speed was approximately 50 kph. The Daily Yomiuri quotes Takashi Yoneda, 29, who was slightly injured when the minivan struck his bicycle, as saying, The driver didn't apply his brakes at all, and the vehicle didn't make any moves to avoid hitting people.
Yomiuri's statement was consistent with police findings there were no skid marks prior to the final crash. Police have searched Fujisaki's home and have interviewed medical personnel at the hospital where he had been treated to gather evidence as to the cause of the fatal accident.
The Washington Post reports Japan has a lot of motor vehicle crashes involving epileptics. Last December, a man received a seven year jail sentence after killing six children while suffering a seizure. The man, who was driving a crane, had not been taking his medication.
People with epilepsy in Japan are discriminated against. They are not allowed to drive unless they can show they have not had a seizure in the past two years. As a result, many Japanese who suffer from epilepsy keep their condition a secret.
The Japanese Epilepsy Association is fighting against discrimination and warning those with epilepsy about the dangers of driving.
One person struck by the minivan, a 57-year-old woman from Australia, is in a coma. The other injured pedestrians are expected to survive.