Hearing set for driver in fatal Utah bus crash

AP News
Posted: May 24, 2011 4:25 PM
Hearing set for driver in fatal Utah bus crash

The driver of a tour bus that rolled over and killed three Japanese tourists last year is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in Cedar City's 5th District Court.

Iron County prosecutors charged Yasushi Mikuni, 26, with 10 felony counts of negligent driving under the influence and one misdemeanor charge of having marijuana residue in his system. Each of those charges carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison.

He is also charged with a misdemeanor logbook violation and unsafe lane-change charges in the rollover bus crash Aug. 9 on Interstate 15 near Cedar City, about 250 miles south of Salt Lake City.

Mikuni is a Japanese citizen who lived in Las Vegas on a work and education visa. He has been free on $50,000 bond.

Hiroki Hayase, a 20-year-old man from Osaka, Japan, Junji Hoshino, 38, and his wife, Junko Hoshino, 40, from Shinjuku, Japan, were killed in the accident.

Mikuni, who escaped the accident with minor injuries, was driving for Canyon Transportation Inc. of the Salt Lake suburb of Sandy. He picked up the group of 14 Japanese tourists in Las Vegas for a four-day tour of Utah's national parks and Arizona's Grand Canyon, according to troopers and tour organizers.

The bus had made a stop at Zion National Park and was en route to Bryce Canyon National Park when it rolled over.

Utah Highway Patrol investigators said he flew to Salt Lake City and drove the tour bus to Las Vegas before setting out the next day for a tour of national parks _ with seven hours sleep, nicotine gum and energy drinks.

"The main reason we feel this accident happened was that he was driving too many hours and didn't have enough sleep the night before," UHP Sgt. Ryan Bauer said after the accident.

Investigators have said they didn't believe Mikuni was impaired while driving, but Utah law doesn't allow a driver to have even a trace of an illicit drug in his or her system.

Hayase's parents, Hideo and Akemi Hayase, have filed a personal injury lawsuit in Utah's 3rd District Court against Mikuni and the travel companies tied to the trip. Attorneys for the family said the Hayases and their daughter were also injured in the crash and that Akemi Hayase's injuries left her a paraplegic.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified financial damages for the pain and suffering, medical expenses, funeral expenses for their son and other damages.

It contends that Mikuni, the Utah-based travel companies Canyon Transportation and Western Leisure Inc., and two Japanese tourism companies were negligent and failed to ensure the safety of travelers.

The first lawsuit stemming from the accident was filed in October.

Attorneys for Kei and Mai Maeda sued in Salt Lake City's U.S. District Court. Court papers say the couple was celebrating their wedding anniversary when the crash left him with a broken neck and her with a punctured lung and an eye injury.