As you may remember, we covered the tunnel-escaping Subaru on Sunday. Thanks to the fact that the owner of the Subaru works for NHK, the Japanese national broadcaster, we have a better idea of what he did to save his and his wife’s lives.
First, here is the Sasago Tunnel. The first 30 seconds of this video gives you a good idea of the lay of the land. It’s the ceiling panels that collapsed and fell.
As the driver recounts, upon the first impact by the falling debris, his wife in the passenger seat lost consciousness and was slumped over him, with superficial cuts to her head. He could feel the weight of the concrete on top of and to the side of his car, and he tried with all his might to wrestle and accelerate his car out of the chaos. His car does not have rollbars. He already had momentum/boost going as at the time of the incident, he was passing (to the right, as this is Japan) at around 60 mph (in a 42 mph zone).
Finally, the driver states that after the first and second panels started falling, the rest of the panels fell like a snake.
Subaru Japan’s response to this disaster has been muted and humble: “That the driver narrowly escaped harm has been a silver lining in this tragedy. But we think it only a coincidence that he was in a Subaru.”
Here is a computer animated video of the tunnel. Here is a video of workers inspecting a tunnel with a similar ceiling panel set-up. Each of the ceiling panels weighed a ton. The ceiling panels were last renovated in 1978. Only visual inspections have been performed since. Records do not show the bolts holding the panels ever being replaced, and there are no guidelines for replacing them.
Perhaps our highway engineer commenter from Sunday’s post can shed some light on the cause of the failure.
And here is a glimmer of good news. The Subaru will not be sent to the wrecking yard– it will be repaired! The current owner, who is the second owner, had the car “refreshed” when he purchased it. The Subaru will now be repaired at the same shop.
Again, a big hat tip to my Japanese-reading friend.