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Bodies of Utah crash victims being returned to Japan

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CEDAR CITY — The bodies of three Japanese tourists killed in a rollover crash on a southern Utah highway will soon be flown back to Japan, diplomatic officials said Friday.

The trip is expected to occur on Saturday, the Denver-based Deputy Consul General Fumiyoshi Kashima said.

On Thursday, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert met with Japan's consul general from Denver and the families of the victims at a Cedar City mortuary. The governor expressed his condolences to the families on behalf of the state, Herbert aide Mike Mower said. Utah's Asian affairs office has also offered to assist the families of the injured passengers who are still hospitalized.

The group of 14 tourists had come to Utah from Las Vegas for a four-day tour of national parks and Arizona's Grand Canyon. Their van rolled Monday on I-15 near Cedar City.

Killed in the crash were Junji Hoshino, 38, and Junko Hoshino, 40, a married couple from Shinjuku, and Hiroki Hayase, a 20-year-old man from Osaka.

Hayase's parents and 14-year-old sister were among the 11 other passengers injured.

Four of the injured — two men and two women — remained in critical condition at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray on Friday, hospital spokesman Jess Gomez said.

Two other women remained at University Hospital, which said Friday that the patients and their family have asked that no updates on their conditions be made to the public.

The Utah Highway Patrol released new details about the accident that left bodies and luggage strewn across a weedy highway median. Investigators have determined that when the van veered off the highway into a median, it traveled for 426 feet in the rough before flipping one and a half times, landing with its wheels up.

Shuttle driver Yasushi Mikuni, 26, is under investigation by Utah troopers who say he may have been distracted or drowsy when he rolled the van. Troopers said they found no mechanical problem that would have caused the crash.

Mikuni, a Japanese national living in Las Vegas on a work and education visa, escaped with minor injuries.

Iron County prosecutors also are reviewing the case and will decide whether to file charges. County attorney Scott Garrett has not said when he will reach a decision.