World No 1 and world champion Kento Momota suffered facial injuries when a minibus he was travelling in from his hotel to the Kuala Lumpur international airport, crashed into the back of a 30 tonne lorry carrying soil. Three others sustained injuries while the Malaysian driver Bavan Nageswarau died on the spot.
“Momota sustained multiple laceration wounds to the face plus right maxillary sinus and nasal bone fracture and was taken to Putrajaya Hospital for treatment. He is in stable condition,” the Badminton World Federation said in a statement, adding “He does not have a broken nose.” The cuts on his lip need stitches and a CT scan was scheduled for later in the day.
In a picture released by Bernama, the Malaysian government news agency, Momota seemed to have a cut on his lip, nose and forehead between eyes. The southpaw’s bandaged right bicep was also visible for what appeared superficial wounds. This could not be confirmed independently.
Three others were in the crash – Japan team assistant coach, Yu Hirayama, who sustained facial injuries and also laceration wound over right shin according to Serdang police chief ACP Ismadi Borhan. Physiotherapist Morimoto Akifumi suffered a fractured hand and a cerebral concussion and Hawkeye system operator William Thomas suffered leg injuries and needed seven stitches on his head, according to news agency Bernama and Malaysian federation.
Top officials of Malaysian badminton federation and the Prime Minister’s wife Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali visited Momota in hospital as he sought to be discharged and return to Japan. Japan head coach Park Joo Bong who was supposed to proceed to Indonesia where other Japanese will compete this week, stayed back and was at the hospital throughout.
The top-ranked Momota had won the Malaysian crown on Sunday afternoon beating Viktor Axelsen.
Malaysia’s New Strait Times reported: “Momota departed from the hotel where he was staying at Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The group left on Monday pre-dawn and when passing Jalan Raya Maju Expressway in Putrajaya at 13 km, the minibus driven by Nageswarau crashed into the back of a land hauling truck. Early reports in The New Strait Times as quoted by CNN Indonesia said, “Minibus crashed into a truck at high speed, allegedly due to a brake failure.”
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Selangor Fire and Rescue Department assistant director Hafisham Mohd Noor told press that the department received a call on the accident at 4.57 am.
Momota who has dominated men’s singles for the last season with 11 titles and crossed the half million dollars in prize money, was in Malaysia at the start of the season chasing an elusive title after losing in the country thrice in two years.
Momota had pulled out of Indonesia, explaining to the press after his Round 2 win in Malaysia Masters: “Towards the end of last year, it was really hectic for me, especially after the BWF World Tour Finals (Guangzhou) and the Japanese National Championships. I don’t want to push myself too much because I fear picking up an injury, which is why I chose to withdraw from the Indonesia Open. However, I am not skipping the Malaysia Masters because it’s important for me that I do not lose the tournament feeling. I am not in my best shape but I still won (yesterday). If I can win tomorrow, then I will be in the quarter-finals and that is already better than last year. So, we will see.”
He had gone on to win the year’s first title and paid fines for late withdrawal, citing it was “something he had to do to safeguard his health.”
New Straits Times said Joo Bong cancelled his plans to be with Momota at the Putrajaya Hospital. “He (Momota) was supposed to leave for Japan this morning after winning the Malaysia Masters title yesterday. And then the accident happened. I’m deeply saddened,” Joo Bong told the paper, who declined to comment further.
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