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Man whose wife, daughter were killed by elderly driver appeals for families to do more

TOKYO -- A man whose wife and daughter died in a car accident caused by an elderly driver called for more people to act on anxieties concerning relatives' driving in an April 24 press conference.

Mana Matsunaga, 31, and her daughter Riko, 3, were killed on April 19 while riding their bicycle in the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo's Toshima Ward, when 87-year-old Kozo Iizuka drove through pedestrian crossings and collided with trucks before coming to a halt.

Matsunaga's husband gave a press conference in Tokyo to appeal to drivers across Japan. "I have suddenly lost my wife and daughter, the people I love the most in this world, and I am in despair. I hope this incident will spur debate (regarding elderly drivers) to hopefully reduce the number of future victims."

Mana and Riko Matsunaga, who both died in the April 19 accident, are seen at a park on April 6, 2019, in this photo provided by the family of the victims.

His voice was at times strained as he read a prepared statement, with a photo of the victims taken in February placed by his side. "I believed my daughter would grow up, become an adult and leave the family home and that my wife and I would grow old together. But in an instant that was taken from us."

The couple was first introduced by their families. He praised Mana, who is from Japan's southernmost island prefecture of Okinawa. "I suffer from kidney problems; she always made food that took my condition into account. She really made me grow both physically and mentally." In their last conversation, over video-phone just before the accident, he told her he would be home on time after work.

About his daughter Riko, he shared fond memories of her humming the "ABC Song." He said she was shy but had recently started making friends and developing.

Mana Matsunaga's husband delivers his remarks to journalists at a press conference in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on April 24, 2019. (Mainichi/Taro Fujii)

Since the accident he admitted to questioning the point of living. He had no intention of releasing their photographs initially, but changed his mind. In his press conference he explained why. "For those who are insecure about the safety of their driving, those about to drink-drive or engage in aggressive maneuvers, perhaps the memory of my wife and daughter's faces will make them reconsider their actions."

He appealed for everyone to do their part. "I want people who aren't confident in their ability to refrain from getting behind the wheel. If there's someone in your family whose driving worries you, please take the time to discuss that at home."

(Japanese original by Ikuko Ando, Tomoko Igarashi and Hironori Tsuchie, City News Department)

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