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Sole Survivor Of Arizona Crash To Join Grandparents In Japan

VERNON HILLS, Ill. (STMW) -- Nine-year-old Rinka Hirayama, the lone survivor of a fiery car crash last month on a desert highway near the Grand Canyon in Arizona has returned to Vernon Hills, but only for a few weeks.

Once her grandparents settle her parents' affairs, Rinka is expected to return to her native Japan with them.

"Rinka is doing well, she is healing nicely," said Dennis Fitzgerald, vice president of customer satisfaction for Yaskawa America Inc., which employed her father until his death.

Rinka lost her parents, Tomohiro and Sachiyo, and her 16-year-old brother Yuki, a sophomore at Stevenson High School, during a spring break vacation.

Raul Garcia, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Public Safety, said the Hirayama family was traveling on the two-lane U.S. Route 160 about 25 miles west of northern Arizona's Tuba City on March 28 when an oncoming pickup truck slammed into them.

The two occupants of that pickup were fleeing Navajo Nation law enforcement, Garcia said, though those officers were about a mile behind. Police said the pickup crossed the center line and struck the Hirayamas' van.

The collision killed all but Rinka. She was taken to Phoenix Children's Hospital, from which she was recently released.

Her grandparents have requested to not speak about the tragedy. Rinka had been a third-grader at Half Day School in Lincolnshire, but has not been back to class, Fitzgerald said.

"She will be going back to Japan, near Tokyo, within the next few weeks to attend school there," he said. "Her grandparents are with her now and will be watching over her in Japan."

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2014. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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