NEXCO Central recreates fatal tunnel collapse

The operator of expressways in central Japan has opened a new training facility to help its employees learn the lessons from a fatal tunnel collapse about eight years ago.

Ceiling panels fell on vehicles in the Chuo Expressway's Sasago Tunnel in Yamanashi Prefecture in December 2012 along a 140-meter long section. The fallen panels crushed three vehicles, killing nine people and injuring three others.

Central Nippon Expressway Company, or NEXCO Central, invited bereaved families and the media to the new facility in Tokyo's Hachioji City on Thursday.

Ceiling panels and hanging rods that fell in the accident are on display in one of nine sections at the facility.

In another section, the accident site has been recreated with fallen ceiling panels lying on top of each other in a 10-meter high and 10-meter wide cross-section model of the tunnel.

A government panel that investigated the accident blamed the metal anchor bolts used to secure ceiling panels and hanging rods.

Anchor bolts that were bent severely appear to have yielded to the weight of the ceiling panels.

Also on display are mementos of victims, including a crushed vehicle that burst into flames, a wristwatch that stopped at the time of the accident, and a mobile phone that melted in the fire.

Thirteen family members of the victims listened to explanations about the tunnel's structure and components.

Ishikawa Shinichi lost his 28-year-old daughter Yuri in the accident.

Ishikawa said he becomes tearful when he thinks about Yuri being crushed by the debris.

He said he wants the employees of NEXCO Central to learn lessons from the tragedy and to work hard to secure public safety.