4 charged with professional negligence in child’s death

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A child practices using the emergency buzzer on a school bus in Makinohara, Shizuoka Prefecture, on Monday.

SHIZUOKA — Criminal charges have been filed against the former chairman and three former staffers of the childcare facility in Makinohara, Shizuoka Prefecture, where a 3-year-old girl died in September after being left on a bus.

The Shizuoka Prefectural Police filed charges Monday against Tatsuyoshi Masuda, 73, the former chairman of the Kawasaki Yochien facility, on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in the death of China Kawamoto.

Also charged was a former temporary worker, 76, who was onboard the bus as an assistant, as well as a former teacher, 47, and a former assistant teacher, 26, who were responsible for the girl’s class.

The prefectural police have issued a statement calling for indictments. All four suspects have admitted to the charges.

According to the prefectural police, Masuda and the then temporary staffer failed to confirm that China had gotten off the bus, which was parked in the school parking lot at around 8:50 a.m. on Sept. 5, allegedly causing her to die from heatstroke.

The former homeroom teacher and assistant teacher are suspected of neglecting safety management, having failed to confirm China’s attendance with her parents on the day.

The maximum temperature in Makinohara on Sept. 5 was 30.5 C. A test conducted by prefectural police using a bus in mid-September showed the temperature inside reaching more than 45 C.

Buzzers installed on buses

The city of Makinohara has installed emergency buzzers on three of the four buses it owns that are used at public nurseries for excursions and other activities.

The buzzers are located near the entrance of the buses, which are not used for transporting children to and from school. Pressing the button causes an alarm to sound continuously until the release button near the driver’s seat is pressed.

The buttons are easy to operate even for small children who do not have much physical strength.

About 30 children from the Makinohara nursery school practiced using the buzzers on Monday. Taught how to use the device beforehand by the nursery’s staff, the children boarded the bus and pressed the button, which was labeled “Help, press.” City officials and nursery staff made sure the alarm was sounding.