90-year-old ex-bureaucrat given jail term over fatal Tokyo car crash
Written by tokyoclub on September 2, 2021
A 90-year-old former top bureaucrat was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison for negligence over a 2019 car accident in Tokyo in which a mother and her 3-year-old daughter were killed and nine others injured.
The Tokyo District Court ruled that Kozo Iizuka, a former chief of the now-defunct Agency of Industrial Science and Technology under the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, was guilty of mistakenly pressing down the gas pedal instead of the brake for around 10 seconds during the incident.
Iizuka had pleaded not guilty, maintaining that a mechanical issue with the car caused it to run out of control. The high-profile case stirred debate about the increasing number of elderly drivers on Japanese roads and the dangers they pose.
Takuya Matsunaga (2nd from L), whose wife Mana and daughter Riko were killed when a car hit them at a crosswalk in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro in 2019, heads to the Tokyo District Court on Sept. 2, 2021, to hear the court’s ruling on the driver Kozo Iizuka, a former top bureaucrat. (Pool photo)(Kyodo)
“I hope you will acknowledge your responsibility and negligence, and sincerely apologize to the bereaved family,” Presiding Judge Kenji Shimotsu said in handing down the ruling. The court did not recognize “any abnormalities with the car, or any circumstances that suggest a malfunction.”
Takuya Matsunaga, the 35-year-old husband and father of the victims, told reporters following the ruling that he felt “relieved” that Iizuka was not acquitted, saying, “It has given me the catalyst to move forward.”
Prosecutors had sought a seven-year prison term for Iizuka, saying that no problems with the car were found in an inspection conducted after the accident, and that there was no evidence of him applying the brakes during the incident.
According to the ruling, Iizuka ran a red light after mistaking the gas pedal for the brake, hitting and killing bicycle-riding Mana Matsunaga, 31, and her daughter Riko when his vehicle entered a crosswalk in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro area on April 19, 2019.
He also injured nine others, including his wife who was a passenger in the car.
Iizuka, who was also injured in the accident and hospitalized, was indicted without arrest in February last year, triggering a public outcry and claims that he had been given preferential treatment due to his former government position.