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SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — A local woman is dead and her daughter is seriously injured after a collision between their vehicle and one driven by a Sasebo-based petty officer, according to Japanese officials.

Japanese police officials say Petty Officer 2nd Class Barry John Gibson, 29, was drinking and driving Friday night on the Nishi-Kyushu Expressway. He veered into the oncoming lane at 10:47 p.m. in the Tenjin-yama Tunnel, about three miles from the base, and slammed into a car driven by Rumi Hirano, 18, according to a Nagasaki Prefectural Police spokesman.

Hirano suffered a broken neck and cervical vertebra and her mother, 46-year-old Sachiko Hirano, died of brain bruisings and several fractures, the police spokesman said.

A Nagasaki Highway Patrol Police spokesman said Gibson is suspected of being intoxicated at the time of the accident and, as of Monday, he remained in a local hospital receiving treatment for fractures on the right side of his face.

The Japanese police said they are investigating the case and no charges had been filed Monday.

“The sailor is in stable condition and undergoing medical evaluation and treatment,” said base spokesman Charles Howard. “The case is still under investigation. We have to see the results of the investigation to determine necessary actions.

“The U.S. Navy has a zero-tolerance policy on alcohol abuse,” Howard said. “A traffic safety stand-down is one of the efforts which will happen in the very near future.”

Base officials visited the victim Saturday afternoon, and Capt. Michael James, base commander, also visited the Hirano family that evening.

“The U.S. Navy deeply regrets this tragic accident,” Howard noted, adding that the base “is fully cooperating with the Japanese authorities and deeply regrets the death of one of the Japanese nationals.”

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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.
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