The loss of a loved one at any time is a traumatic event. When their death comes as a result of something sudden and unexpected, the impact can be even greater. If the loved one is your child – one who you would expect to outlive – the emotions are further tested. Imagine having to cope with all of these feelings when also adding into the mix the challenges when the death happens on the other side of the planet in a country with a different language and culture. This is exactly what one man did have to face when his son died in the world’s largest single plane crash.
There were 524 crew and passengers on board JAL flight JL123 and all but four perished in the crash on 12 August 1985 in mountains in central Japan. All but 22 of the victims were Japanese. Whilst the world’s media covered the crash in as much detail as it could in the first few days after the crash, over time the majority of the discussion about the crash has been in Japanese. There have been books studying the crash, novels, documentaries, dramatizations and movies. In many respects the crash is the Japanese equivalent of The Titanic. But interest in the crash is not confined to Japan. But, other than the book Dealing with Disaster in Japan: Responses to the Flight JL123 Crash, the focus has been largely on what happened to the plane, not on the human impact. This book will allow readers to fully appreciate what it was like for the families coming to terms with their loss or what it is like for those trying to support such families.
Peter Mathews lost his son Kimble, who was travelling with his fiancee Masako Nishiguchi, in the crash. From the time of the first phone call through his trip to Japan until his return back to the UK, he kept a diary of what he saw and experienced. He also took photographs of some of the sights. Using these materials as a basis, this book provides an amazing insight into the events of August 1985. But it does more than that. Although the world has changed in many ways in the years since the crash, the emotions and challenges that people have to face after such a tragedy, have not. The book also includes details of the experiences and lessons learned by the JAL employee, Keith Haines, who was assigned to accompany the Mathews family to Japan. These are as relevant today as they were in 1985.
In the words of Peter Mathews himself; ‘The facts are history now. You know all about the crash. But for an in-depth account of a father’s anguish searching for his only son’s remains, read my diary notes – unsolicited and written at any spare moment. They tell my story of grief perhaps better than anything.’
Peter Mathews passed away in 2018. Following his death, the book has been revised a Second Edition (eBook ISBN 978-0-244-67492-2, paperback ISBN 978-0-244-97492-3) was published in March 2018