National / Crime & Legal

Former senior Japanese bureaucrat set to be referred to prosecutors over car crash that killed mom and daughter

Kyodo

Police will refer to prosecutors as soon as next week the case of an 88-year-old former senior bureaucrat who was involved in a fatal car crash in central Tokyo in April, according to investigative sources.

Kozo Iizuka, who was 87 at the time of the accident, is suspected of losing control of his vehicle while driving in the Ikebukuro district on April 19, resulting in the deaths of a 3-year-old girl and her mother and injuring eight others. The apparent cautious handling of the case by authorities, who did not arrest Iizuka and questioned him on a voluntary basis, has fueled speculation of favorable treatment due to his social standing.

Iizuka, a former head of the Agency of Industrial Science and Technology, is believed to have floored the gas pedal at the time of the crash, the sources said Friday in announcing the referral to prosecutors. There were no signs he applied the brakes, they added.

The driver has told police that he might have hit the gas by mistake while intending to step on the brake pedal. Having confirmed that there were no mechanical problems with his vehicle, the Metropolitan Police Department apparently concluded that Iizuka’s driving was to blame for the accident.

According to the sources, the police have also investigated whether physical or mental deterioration, including diseases such as Parkinson’s or dementia, may have contributed to the crash.

In the accident, Iizuka plowed into pedestrians after losing control of his car, fatally striking Mana Matsunaga, 31, and her daughter Riko on a sidewalk.

The vehicle hit other pedestrians and cyclists, injuring eight. Upon analyzing data recorded by the car, police found that the vehicle struck people at a speed of more than 90 kilometers per hour.

Iizuka and his wife, who was in the passenger seat, were also injured in the incident.

Police have been under fire for their handling of Iizuka. Matsunaga’s widow launched a petition seeking a harsh punishment for Iizuka, and submitted about 390,000 signatures supporting the move to the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office.

An increase in traffic accidents caused by elderly drivers has become a major social problem as the nation’s population rapidly grays. While police are urging elderly people to surrender their driver’s licenses, many older residents, especially in rural areas, cite a lack of public transportation and the need to drive for daily necessities.

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