TOKYO • At least 14 people were killed after an overnight bus carrying skiers flipped over a guard rail after veering off a mountain road in central Japan.
Twenty-seven others, many in their 20s, were injured.
The bus carrying 41 people, including two drivers, hit the guard rail and flipped over on the road in Karuizawa, Nagano prefecture, at around 2am yesterday, dropping more than 3m into a ditch, a Saku City fire department official said.
A male college student, 20, said in comments carried on state broadcaster NHK: "After I got to sleep around 1am, there was a thud. The bus suddenly wobbled and I remember banging into my friend on my left. The next thing I knew, I was outside the bus and I have no idea how I got there."
The Yomiuri Shimbun reported that the bus appeared to have crossed the centre line while going round a gentle left-hand curve on a downward stretch of the highway before straying off the road.
Kyodo News reported there was no ice on the road at the time.
The crash is the worst bus accident in Japan since at least 2012, when a bus carrying holidaymakers crashed on a highway while heading for Tokyo Disneyland.
Seven passengers died and 39 people were injured in that crash.
In the latest incident, the bus, run by Tokyo-based budget operator Keyth Tour, was travelling from the capital, to ski resorts in the Kita Shiga highlands. Nine men, including both drivers, and five women were killed, according to local police.
In televised comments, Keyth Tour president Mankichi Fukuda, 38, apologised to the victims, but blamed the bus operator for the accident.
He said Keyth would continue operations from yesterday evening.
The transport ministry said it would search the premises of the bus operator yesterday.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government was working to determine the cause of the accident and would implement safety measures based on its findings.