Masaru Oku, father of one of the seven high school students killed in the March 2017 avalanche in Nasu, Tochigi Prefecture, says he is torn over identifying crime and accident victims by name: He wants to grieve silently without having to deal with the media by staying autonomous, but he also feels the story will be more powerful if the victims are named.
“Our son’s name, Masaki was publicized regardless of my wishes,” Oku said, in a recent interview. “If I had been given a choice, I would have refused to agree to release his name. Losing a child is the biggest sorrow for parents. Immediately after the accident, I felt like the grief was so great that I would literally bleed when I heard even a few words mentioned about him.”
The avalanche struck on a ski slope during a mountaineering workshop for more than 40 people, mostly high school students, on the morning of March 27. Seven students and a teacher from Otawara High School were killed and many others were injured. Masaki was in his first year and a member of the school’s mountaineering club.
Three teachers leading the workshop were suspended after the accident. In March, police handed their papers to prosecutors, accusing them of professional negligence causing death and injuries.
“I had a preconception of the media as the enemy, fearing they would disrupt our lives and write half-truths about our son. It pained me to hear people who didn’t even know him say he was an unhappy and unfortunate boy,” Oku said.
But he also admitted feeling envious after reading accounts about the other families involved. He accepted what he assumed would be the first and last interview request, on Masaki’s birthday in June 2017.
“I wanted to leave something behind to prove our son had lived, just like the other students,” he said. It was the first time he had offered to disclose his son’s name.
The mountaineering club resumed activities three months after the avalanche.
Oku, who co-leads an association formed by the families of the seven dead students, agreed to be interviewed by Kyodo because he distrusts the prefectural board of education, which allowed the club to resume its activities without finding effective measures against such accidents.
“I was afraid our son’s death would be in vain. To give power to words of appeal, the names should be released,” he said.
After the accident, news reports about the character of the victims and their grief-stricken families were criticized “probably because the purpose of the news coverage wasn’t clear,” Oku said.
“I can understand how reporting aimed at asking whether mountaineering as an extracurricular activity should be permitted or if examining the accident itself could be meaningful. But it’s hard to understand the reasoning behind the need to report on the victim’s character, which won’t be that meaningful for people other than their families.”
Asked about the arson attack on the Kyoto Animation Co. studio in July, Oku felt that media outlets were focusing on how harshly they died by repeatedly showing the charred ruins on TV.
“Given the shock the families were going through, I can understand why they would refuse to let the victims’ names to go public.”
Elaborating on his perspective, Oku explained that if the majority of the media reports were critical of him or his son, he would still be highly reluctant to having his son’s name used in news coverage.
“But since speaking with reporters, I have come to trust the media.”
Publishing the names of victims is necessary as long as it is accurate, he stressed.
“But since it’s difficult for families to trust the media immediately after a tragedy, the media should make certain considerations. I think the stance of the media is being tested,” he said.
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City of Brandon – August 7th Media Release – City of Brandon –
For the last 24 hours:
Drinking in Public Leads to Multiple Criminal Charges:
At about 11:40 AM Saturday morning, it was reported that a male subject was acting bizarrely in and around the 700 block Rosser Ave. When located in the area, the 21 year-old was drinking an alcoholic beverage so was detained under the LGCCA. He was subsequently found to be in breach of multiple conditions of two separate Probation Orders. Search incident to arrest revealed a machete in his backpack. He disclosed taking an unknown quantity of unknown pills, so was released on appropriate police imposed conditions as he was receiving medical assessment and treatment. He is to appear in Court on October 3rd, facing one count of possessing a weapon and six counts of failing to comply with a Probation Order.
Break & Enters:
An unlocked attached residential garage on Falcon Crescent was entered overnight on Friday and tools were stolen. Some of those were recovered strewn across neighbouring property.
A resident in the 300 block 27th Street reported that the detached garage had been forcibly entered overnight Thursday – Friday. The complainant was unsure if anything had been stolen but the walk-through door frame had been damaged during the incident.
Theft With Threat:
At about 3:50 PM Saturday afternoon, it was reported that a resident in the 700 block 20th Street had been robbed of a bicycle approx. 20 minutes prior, while in his back yard. Police attended and spoke with the victim who related that an unknown male came into his back yard and stole an old bicycle of no value, and brandished a knife while doing so. The suspect left without further incident. The suspect was described as Indigenous in appearance, 6’5”, skinny, wearing a blue hoodie, black bandana and hat. The knife was pulled from the front right pants’ pocket.
A 28 year-old female was encountered in the 700 block 18th Street Saturday evening, with personal effects strewn about a business vestibule. A records query revealed a warrant for arrest for failing to comply with a Probation Order. She was arrested and released on scene with a court date of October 3rd.
Just before midnight Saturday night, Brandon RCMP advised having a 51 year-old male in custody on the strength of a BPS held warrant for arrest for sexual assault. RCMP had attended to a complaint in Glenboro and encountered the accused. He is held in custody and will appear before the court later today.
Motor Vehicle Collision With Injuries:
At 11:15 PM Saturday night, 911 reported a two vehicle collision at the intersection of Russell Street and Madison Crescent. Two occupants were stuck in a vehicle that had rolled over onto its’ side. The investigation revealed that the driver of the rolled vehicle failed to stop at the stop sign. That driver was transported to BRHC by EMS with non-life threatening injuries. The second driver was uninjured.
Several people were detained from separate incidents, for their own safety or to prevent a breach of the peace, due to their level of intoxication. They will be held in custody until sober enough to care for themselves.
RELEASE AUTHORIZED BY:
A/Staff Sergeant Dallas Lockhart, #101
Anyone with information on any unsolved crime is asked to call Brandon Crime Stoppers at 204-727-(TIPS) 8477, www.brandoncrimestoppers.com or by texting BCSTIP and your message to CRIMES (274637). Crime Stoppers pays up to $2000.00 cash for information that leads to the solution of a crime.
CRIME STOPPERS 204-727-TIPS
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