DODDS bus driver freed pending probe of fatality
Stars and Stripes March 14, 2008
A DODDS school bus driver accused of striking and killing a man who’d been thrown off his motorcycle near Camp Zama was released from police custody Wednesday, Japanese authorities said.
The Yokohama District Public Prosecutor’s Office decided it was unnecessary to hold Mikio Sakaguchi, 52, a master labor contract employee at the Army post, citing the nature of the case and saying he poses no flight risk, according to a spokesman.
The prosecutors will continue the investigation and decide whether to charge Sakaguchi, the spokesman said.
Camp Zama officials had not heard about Sakaguchi’s release late Wednesday afternoon.
Maj. Jim Crawford, a U.S. Army Japan spokesman, said a decision on Sakaguchi’s job status would be made in the next few days after Col. Robert Waltemeyer, the garrison commander, consults with Department of Defense Dependents Schools administrators, legal experts and other officials.
“He’s been a loyal employee, so we want to make sure he’s given due process,” Crawford said. “We’re still cooperating with Japanese authorities. The decision for him to drive will ultimately be left to the garrison commander.
“Our No. 1 priority is safety of the children and safety on the roads. That’s the primary concern he’ll (Waltemeyer) take into account. If we think there’s any kind of risk, that person will not be driving. It’s not something we take lightly.”
The case was referred to the prosecutor’s office in Sagamihara on Wednesday after Sakaguchi was taken into custody by Zama police two days earlier on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter.
Tomoyuki Ikuina of Kanagawa was traveling on his 250 cc motorcycle around 7:40 a.m. Monday when he passed through an intersection in Zama’s Sobudai district and apparently lost control of his bike, according to the police report.
The bus, driven by Sakaguchi, came along from the opposite direction at the same time, hitting Ikuina, who was lying on the street, the police report said.
He was taken to a local hospital and later died.
The incident occurred as the bus was making its morning route from Sagamihara Housing Area to Camp Zama. The bus driver, 10 students and an adult monitor aboard were not injured.