“I still offer incense when I wake up in the morning and before I go to bed at night. I always talk to them as if I am with them. When the verdict came out, I just told them, ‘It’s over. I’m sure they are at least saying ‘good job’ from heaven.
That’s what Takuya Matsunaga, 35, said. In April 2007, Mr. Matsunaga lost his wife Mana (age 31) and daughter Riko (age 3) in a runaway car accident in Ikebukuro, Tokyo.
It has been almost two and a half years since the accident that killed two people and seriously injured nine others. The fact that the defendant Kozo Iizuka (90), who was driving the car, is a former director of the Industrial Technology Research Institute of the former Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), and the fact that he was not immediately arrested after the accident, sparked criticism that Mr. Iizuka was privileged because he was a “senior citizen.
On September 2, Iizuka was sentenced to five years imprisonment at the first trial, and since he did not appeal by the deadline of September 16, he will be imprisoned. Ms. Kyoko Abe, a representative of the NPO World Open Heart, who has been supporting Iizuka, said, “Iizuka has accepted his imprisonment.
“I think he is ready to accept his imprisonment. He asked me what the prison was like and what kind of food was served.
On September 17, after Iizuka was sentenced to prison, Mr. Matsunaga held a press conference, saying, “I think this will be the last time. After the press conference, I interviewed Mr. Matsunaga.
“Even though the verdict is final, it doesn’t mean that the lives of the two men will return or that the daily life of the three of us will return. That is the first thing that makes me feel helpless. It will never be a real relief, but I see it as an opportunity for us bereaved families to look forward, even if only a little. In order to reduce the number of accidents that may occur in the future, I would like to continue to give lectures and other activities.
The Kozo Iizuka case has raised many questions, such as safety issues for elderly drivers and excessive bashing of the perpetrator. The reason why the defendant was not arrested immediately after the accident was because there was no fear of him escaping or destroying evidence, but he received threatening letters and even bomb threats at his home.
The only thing that is puzzling is that Iizuka continued to insist until the very end that the accident was caused by a malfunction of the car, and not by his own mistake of stepping on the gas pedal and brake. Even when confronted with numerous pieces of evidence at trial, he never admitted that he was at fault.
In the trial, Mr. Iizuka claimed, “As far as I remember, I didn’t misstep on the gas pedal and brake, so I don’t think I was negligent,” but it seems that he really doesn’t remember. I don’t think he’s lying,” said Abe.
Iizuka, who was 87 years old at the time of the accident, had been driving while unable to clearly recognize his own actions. Why couldn’t he have returned his license or taken other measures earlier? This is not a problem that can be solved if he is imprisoned and punished.
“What I want is for him to say, ‘The accident was caused by my negligence. I want him to say, ‘I was at fault for the accident,’ because if he goes to jail without admitting fault, it means he thinks he was falsely accused. Can that really be called atonement?” (Mr. Matsunaga)
There has been a closure to this accident. But for the bereaved families, there is no end in sight.
From “FRIDAY” October 8, 2021 issue
Photography： Shinji Hasuo, Kyodo News (at the scene of the accident)