Man, 90, gets 5 years in jail for fatal car crash

A Tokyo court has sentenced a 90-year-old man to five years in prison without suspension for a 2019 car accident that killed a young mother and her child. The incident prompted many elderly drivers to surrender their licenses.

Iizuka Kozo plowed his car into people at a crosswalk in Tokyo's Ikebukuro district in April 2019, killing 31-year-old Matsunaga Mana and her 3-year-old daughter Riko and injuring nine others, some seriously.

The defendant, a former senior bureaucrat of the industry ministry, had pleaded not guilty. He blamed mechanical problems, saying the car sped up even though he stepped on the brakes.

The Tokyo District Court ruled on Thursday that the defendant committed gross negligence by stepping on the gas pedal instead of the brake.

Presiding Judge Shimotsu Kenji said that based on an inspection of the car and police investigations, the vehicle was traveling 96 kilometers per hour at one point. He added that no abnormality or malfunction was found with the car.

Shimotsu said the mother and child had their hopes for the future dashed suddenly and had to leave their family forever. He also said the bereaved family members feel deep sorrow and their sense of loss has not abated at all.

After the ruling, the judge told Iizuka to admit his responsibility and negligence, and sincerely apologize.

Matsunaga Takuya, who lost his wife and daughter in the accident, later met reporters.

Matsunaga said he just wishes his loved ones were back, but that the ruling will help the bereaved family look forward, even a little.

He said he was grateful that the judge expressed sympathy for their sorrow and suffering. He added that he wants Iizuka to accept the ruling.

Matsunaga said he will continue his campaign to eliminate traffic accidents so that the deaths of his loved ones will not be in vain.