Thursday, April 12, 2012

Kyoto Deaths

NHK started its broadcast this morning with a horrific car crash in the Gion district of Kyoto, Thursday morning JST. 16 people were mowed down by a minivan in the main intersection before crashing into a light pole. Half of the people are now dead, including the driver.

At first, I'd thought it was a return to one of those murderous killing sprees that had affected the nation a few years ago. Thoughts of the Akihabara Massacre returned to my mind. But it looks like it was a case of family desperation and tragic happenstance. In the report, the term "tenkan" came up repeatedly, so I looked it up in the translation dictionary. Found out it stands for epilepsy. The dead driver had "an epilepsy-like condition". I've been hearing reports that the driver had lost consciousness...which might strike me more as being narcolepsy. He may have literally fallen asleep at the wheel.

Apparently, his medical condition was known to authorities at a hospital. A doctor doing the press conference was almost in tears as he had implored the young man not to drive. But the man probably didn't heed his advice and didn't write down his medical condition when applying for his current job, a delivery driver. His family obviously knew of his condition since they admitted as much in front of the throng of reporters at their house. Was it a case of family pride that he didn't want to be seen as unemployable? At another press conference, this time held by what seemed to be a national association representing epileptics, the speaker asked everyone not to discriminate based on the disease which might explain but not excuse the coverup by the young man.

In any case, the young man's family will now have to bear the social stigma of now knowing that one of their members has destroyed at least 8 other families.