Driver facing felonies in Utah tour bus wreck

/ Source: The Associated Press

The driver of a tour bus that crashed in Utah, killing three people and injuring 11 others from a Japanese tour group last month is accused of having trace amounts of an intoxicant in his blood, according to jail records.

Yasushi Mikuni, 26, was arrested Tuesday by the Utah Highway Patrol and booked into Iron County jail in Cedar City on suspicion of 11 charges of driving with a measurable amount of a byproduct of a controlled substance in his body. The charge, called DUI metabolite, is a felony.

Mikuni also faces 10 other felony charges of operating a vehicle negligently causing death or injury. In addition, he was held on logbook and lane-change violations, both misdemeanors.

Mikuni is a Japanese citizen who authorities said was living in Las Vegas on a work and education visa.

He was driving the bus when it rolled over Aug. 8 on Interstate 15 near Cedar City, authorities said.

The arrest and charges were posted on the Iron County jails' website ahead of a news conference Utah troopers planned to hold Wednesday in Cedar City, about 250 miles south of Salt Lake City.

Jail officials said they didn't know if Mikuni had a lawyer. None was listed on a court docket.

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 the Utah Highway Patrol 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.

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

Iron County Attorney Scott Garrett and the UHP investigator, Sgt. Ryan Bauer, didn't immediately return messages from the AP Wednesday. Canyon Transportation declined comment, referring the AP to a Salt Lake City lawyer who wasn't available.

No phone listing could be found for the driver.

Canyon Transportation was under investigation by federal authorities for operating across state lines without a license.

Bob Kelleher, the Utah administrator for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, has said the bus company wasn't supposed to do business outside of Utah. It typically picked up passengers from Salt Lake City's airport for short rides to ski areas, he said.

The status of that investigation wasn't immediately clear on Wednesday.

Canyon Transportation supplied the 2006 Ford E350 shuttle bus and driver to other tour operators who organized the trip. One of those organizers, Keith Griffall, CEO and co-owner of tour organizer Western Leisure Inc., has told the AP he was unaware that Canyon Transportation lacked the proper federal license.

Griffall said his company and Nippon Travel Agency in Tokyo were among several companies that helped organize or provided customers for the tour.