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Man freezes to death in car stuck in snow in Gunma

28 Comments

Police on Tuesday said that a man apparently froze to death after his car got stuck in heavy snow in Gunma Prefecture over the weekend.

According to police, the man's body was found at around 1 p.m. Monday inside his car on a prefectural highway near Minamimaki. Fuji TV that snow removal crews discovered the car as they were plowing near the Shimonita Saku railway line.

Police said the man, estimated to be in his 50s, had frozen to death after his car stalled in a snowstorm and was covered with snow. The area had about 1.2 meters of snow over the weekend.

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28 Comments
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RIP. Totally unnecessary death and a darn shame. Heads should roll. Japan has extremely high gas taxes and toll fees. That money obviously was not spent on the welfare of the drivers stuck in a predictable snowstorm.

12 ( +17 / -5 )

Oh that's terribly sad. His last hours would have been spent in hypothermic delirium, the poor man. I feel so badly for his family.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

This sad. I wish the man would not have felt it was so necessary to drive his car in this weather.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

That's terrible and so sad. RIP

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Totally unnecessary death and a darn shame. Heads should roll. Japan has extremely high gas taxes and toll fees.

Reckless... this was not a toll road. Maybe that is the reason this guy unfortunately died? The toll roads are very carefully monitored with safety patrols.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Reckless... this was not a toll road.

True. This was not a prefectural highway. It was a prefectural road.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Sometimes it's just impossible for the authorities to cover everything. They only have so much to work with. It's a shame that this man died, but it's also a shame that he even ventured out on the roads when it was clear that there would be so much snow.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Hunter BrumfieldFeb. 18, 2014 - 10:19PM JST Reckless... this was not a toll road. Maybe that is the reason this guy unfortunately died? The toll roads are very carefully monitored with safety patrols.

Obviously you don't live out in the rural areas (like much of Gunma). In most areas that aren't big cities you have to drive for 15~30 minutes to get onto a toll road, and the roads you have to drive on generally aren't plowed until you get onto one of the major roads.

This was just a tragedy, plain and simple. His car stalled (engine trouble?). Personally I would have got out and walked, because the physical activity keeps you warm and it isn't ever more than a few kilometers to some sort of shelter, even if its just one of those plastic greenhouses they use for farms (which are actually pretty darned warm), however I actually like walking in the snow and always dress warmly for the winter, so I can understand how, at the time, it may have seemed safer to stay in the shelter of the car, and then by the time that it came to the crunch point he simply didn't have the energy to get out of the car and get moving.

I know that the standard line you'll always get from search and rescue is "stay put, it makes it easier for us to find you", but there are times when it is better to choose a direction and just walk, particularly when no-one knows where you are and no-one is looking yet.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Reckless: How do you know this could have been prevented?

Maria: How do you know he has family?

Sorry to play the devil's advocate, but people seem to jump to so many conclusions on here...

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I have no idea why he was on the road. I woke on the 15th, looked out the window toward my neighbors' homes and immediately took pictures of their inaccessible doorways and buried cars....completely unrecognizable as a car. Except for being on a road, a helicopter flying overhead could mistake it for a small hill. The snow fell down and was evenly distributed everywhere. I can well imagine the road he may have been on. It would be a tough decision to make to stay or to walk. We do not know his physical health before being stuck. Walking through a lot of snow can be exhausting and he may have not been up to the task or wearing any appropriate clothing. A walk anywhere around our area to any major point can take 40 minutes on a good day. I am still hearing people tell about their having walked from the last station along the Chuo Line to their homes. 5.5 or 7 hours or more! One had mountain climbing boots, the other had rain boots that broke, but he kept walking. Our family member walked home from our station and it took well over 90 minutes in rain proof shoes.

Anyway, this poor soul didn't make it. With the heater going, the snow can block the exhaust pipe. My parents told us to keep the windows open a crack when we were stuck in snow to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Very sad to read about this man's death.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

So tragic T_T. May he R.I.P

2 ( +2 / -0 )

In most areas that aren't big cities you have to drive for 15~30 minutes to get onto a toll road, and the roads you have to drive on generally aren't plowed until you get onto one of the major roads.

I believe that was the point of Hunter's post. Reckless seemed to be suggesting that this never should have happened probably because the article suggested it was a 'highway', when it was just a regular road. So, actually, you, Hunter and I are in agreement. I saw the road on TV and it was a two lane one with one lane for each direction. ie: A regular rather untravelled road.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In Canada, someone would of stopped to help such a man. I wonder why no one stopped to help him. He would of been stranded for over 5 hours. You cant freeze to death in a short period of time unless you are without clothes and in extremely cold weather (-20 degree weather). I doubt it was that cold in Japan on the day he died.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

In Canada, someone would of stopped to help such a man. I wonder why no one stopped to help him. He would of been stranded for over 5 hours. You cant freeze to death in a short period of time unless you are without clothes and in extremely cold weather (-20 degree weather). I doubt it was that cold in Japan on the day he died

Hint. 1.2 meters of snow. Rural road. Only a snow removal crew were finally able to access the road.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

JohnBeckerFeb. 19, 2014 - 12:56AM JST Sometimes it's just impossible for the authorities to cover everything.

He should've carry a cell phone and call for emergency.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

slumdogFeb. 19, 2014 - 06:39AM JST

In most areas that aren't big cities you have to drive for 15~30 minutes to get onto a toll road, and the roads you have to drive on generally aren't plowed until you get onto one of the major roads.

I believe that was the point of Hunter's post. Reckless seemed to be suggesting that this never should have happened probably because the article suggested it was a 'highway', when it was just a regular road. So, actually, you, Hunter and I are in agreement. I saw the road on TV and it was a two lane one with one lane for each direction. ie: A regular rather untravelled road.

I think there's a confusion in terms here. A "toll road" (which is what Hunter referred to in his post) is very different from a "prefectural highway".

A toll road (commonly referred to as an IC) isn't prefectural, it is run by a private company, regularly patrolled and often closed down during the snow (the company doesn't want to be responsible for the accidents). You pay to a toll to drive on them, and the speed limit is much higher, normally about 80km/hr.

The national highways (routes 1,2,3,4, and so on up to about 10 I think) are roads that run between prefectures. You can spot then because the signs look like triangles with rounded edges. The national highways are supposed to be two lanes each way, but there's a branch of one near my house where they just reassigned an old single-lane road as part of the national highways. Normally the speed limit on the national highways is 50km/hr.

The prefectural highways are mostly single-lane, and are a bit of a joke, and indistinguishable from regular roads apart from the fact that they have numbers. They're normally designated by a number inside a hexagon. The speed limit varies from 40~50km/hr. There are tons of prefectural highways, and while they do tend to get plowed they aren't high on the list of places that get plowed early.

I hope this clears things up. A prefectural highway most assuredly is NOT a toll road.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Frungy,

The Japanese press is describing the road as a 'prefectural road' (県道). As I explained above, it was not a toll road or a prefectural highway(県の高速道路). It was a plain old road managed by the prefecture.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In any case a man is dead and whomever was being well paid to sit in offices and manage that road, its upkeep, maintenance, and safety, should be taken to task as to what they were doing that day,,,

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

In any case a man is dead and whomever was being well paid to sit in offices and manage that road, its upkeep, maintenance, and safety, should be taken to task as to what they were doing that day,,,

You know, not everything is always someone's fault. Expecting perfect service in a once-in-40-year snowstorm is being unreasonable.

If there is any fault, it's with this guy for going out in a crazy snowstorm. But more reasonably, it was just a misjudgement, and an unfortunate one in that he paid for it with his life.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

This was far far far far from "perfect service" judging from the results, a frozen corpse on a public road for several hours.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

This was far far far far from "perfect service" judging from the results, a frozen corpse on a public road for several hours.

Yes, I agree, it wasn't perfect service. Because as I said, expecting perfect service is unreasonable. And considering there are still people trapped in their houses by the snow, the fact that the guy was trapped in his car in the snow for a several hours isn't that surprising.

Maybe you don't come from a snow country, but even in countries that get lots of snow, it's a fairly regular thing that people die in snow storms. And this area isn't somewhere that regularly gets snow storms like we've seen in Japan recently. So expecting that every road should have had every meter monitored for every car, all right away with no delay, is unreasonable.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Yes I agree with you basically and would like to know how many well paid bureaucrats in charge of that road's safety were sitting in warm buildings obediently staring at computer screens while said man was freezing to death. Just would like an inquiry,,,

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Just would like an inquiry,,,

Reports suggest that it was not a well travelled road. The man was reported to have been found by a resident of a home in the vicinity when that resident called the police initially saying they saw a car buried in the snow and then they told police that they thought someone was inside.

The victim may not have been familiar with the area and feared venturing out into the snow.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

would like to know how many well paid bureaucrats in charge of that road's safety were sitting in warm buildings obediently staring at computer screens

AKA not recklessly going out in a snowstorm where they may have died if their vehicles had gotten stuck in the snow? What does it matter? If they were inside, they were doing the right thing, and if they had gone out, they would have only been adding to the problem. It's not like they are trained rescue workers or something.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I live in Gumma, and I can tell you firsthand that they do not plow the roads! My entire community had to hand shovel the snow off the road so we can get out! I saw countless ambulances and firetrucks struggling to get through the snow! The city should obviously invest in snowplows!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@Tahoochi it could have been prevented because 1) the weather service knew and warned about the snow storm, 2) as all japanese will keep reminding you, japan is a country with 4 clearly defined seasons - and right now we are in the middle of winter, and it snows every damn year. maybe a little more than usual this year, but still nothing compared to what they get regularly a bit farther north. it's not like a freak snow storm hit los angeles or something like that.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

We used to keep a sleeping bag or two in the trunk in winter or when taking long trips.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I don't know how the contracts for companies are made. As I have written before, we woke Saturday to 1 plus meters of snow and could not open our front door. Everything was buried. We spent Saturday trying to just get a walking path from neighbor to neighbor to the main street. Exhausted, we broke for lunch and naps and resumed again. Sunday, we worked by hand for 7 hours with no break except for water. At 2, one small road had a plow come up to our area but could NOT do our entrance. The entrance and other half of the circle around the mountain was with a different company. They came around 6 p.m. or so Sunday. We cheered them on!! But, the KOKUDO Rt. 20 was still awful as of Monday night when they plowed again. Tuesday night, it was better but still no safe place for pedestrians to walk. Everyone was/is sharing the icy narrow road and bridges. We still have to call the neighboring town to see if it is worth driving over to the supermarket. THey say, No, the streets are bad and the supermarket is empty. Have to take a train to Tokyo to buy food. A lot of roads. A lot of snow. Those workers have not rested at all!! It took a good 30 minutes for them to plow 10 meters of 1 meter deep snow. It is sad that they could not reach him. But, I saw why. Poor man, and other stuck people.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

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