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3 junior high school students drown in Aichi river

29 Comments

Three junior high students drowned and one other boy remains in a serious condition after getting into difficulties in a river in Aichi Prefecture on Monday.

According to police, the four were part of a group of seven who had come to swim in the Kiso River in Ichinomiya. At about 1:30 p.m., one boy swam out to the center of the river, TBS reported. He got into trouble and three other boys -- still wearing their clothes -- swam out to try and help him. Witnesses said the four were swept away by a current.

Police said three of the boys were found dead a short time later, while the fourth boy was taken to hospital, TBS reported.

Rescue personnel said the center of the river is about 4 meters deep and that there are often fast currents there, even though the river looks calm on the surface.

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29 Comments
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There are just too many tragic stories like this. The stories appear almost once a week. Why aren't children learning to swim in the first year of school in Japan? Most children in the USA learn to swim by age 2 or 3 years old. Some babies learn as young at 6 months in the USA. There are school and city pools in Japan, and many students go to Okinawa for junior high school trip. Why aren't children learning to swim? An ALT said that children will not swim in the rivers because they are told they are dirty or contaminated. How is this possible?

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

noriyosan,

Even good swimmers cannot always handle a strong river current such as the one these poor souls undoubtedly encountered.

You hear of bullying, then you hear of boys who try to save another schoolmates' life.

Such a tragedy.

I hope the surviving boy makes a full recovery...

8 ( +8 / -0 )

I assume they panicked.... Sad....

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Why aren't children learning to swim in the first year of school in Japan? Most children in the USA learn to swim by age 2 or 3 years old. Some babies learn as young at 6 months in the USA.

I'm sure the boys had learned to swim, but breaststroke and butterfly probably aren't going to help you in a fast-flowing river. Pretty sure also that no 2 or 3 year old would be able to swim their way out of a situation like that no matter how many swimming lessons they had taken, let alone a 6 month old.

Plenty of rivers are clean enough to swim in in Japan, your ALT was probably talking about rivers like the Arakawa or Sumida river.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Why aren't children learning to swim in the first year of school in Japan? Most children in the USA learn to swim by age 2 or 3 years old. Some babies learn as young at 6 months in the USA.

You are assuming that children in America do not drown, because they have learn how to swim. This is absolutely wrong. Learning to swim doesn't make you immune to drowning.

The story has a key sentence.

He got into trouble and three other boys—still wearing their clothes—swam out to try and help him.

When I was in High School, my football team classmate drowned in a small lake. He was wearing his clothes and the exact cause was probably the weight of his clothing and some strong underwater currents.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Wow not cool, I wish Japan had more swimming pools and places children could learn to swim.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

@gogogo

Wow not cool, I wish Japan had more swimming pools and places children could learn to swim.

Let's try some reading comprehension.

"At about 1:30 p.m., one boy swam out to the center of the river".

Yeah, the boy who got in trouble, he SWAM there. Then "three other boys—still wearing their clothes—swam out to try and help him". Hmm, they SWAM too.

And finally, "Witnesses said the four were swept away by a current."

Well, even adults who can swim drown in cases like this. We have all ready stories of adults drowning when trying to rescue children, it's a shame, don't turn it into a "Japan is so backwards" rant.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

This is so very tragic for me: I'm a former JET AET (in a Middle School), a former lifeguard (in the U.S.), and I've a long time friend who lives in Aichi-ken. It's more than knowing how to swim, which these boys seemed to know how to do. . . at least in a "passable way." It's knowing (1) what situations to avoid (like this river) and (2) how to handle yourself if you get in trouble (which can happen to anybody). Good swimming lessons don't just teach kids how to swim, they -- just as importantly -- teach kids (and adults) how to avoid dangerous situations and increase one's chances of survival in an emergency. One of the "iron sayings" in basic lifeguarding courses is that the leading cause of drowning is "panic." That's no trite or merely pithy saying, it reminds one that keeping one's head and knowing various steps/techniques/actions/options is most often the key to surviving.

My heart goes out to these boys families and friends.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

This river takes lives every year, it seems. Currents are strong and unpredictable.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Most children in the USA learn to swim by age 2 or 3 years old. Some babies learn as young at 6 months in the USA. There are school and city pools in Japan, and many students go to Okinawa for junior high school trip. Why aren't children learning to swim?

Woah, hold on here one. You are making a MAJOR assumption here that kids in the US learn by 2 or 3, if you grew up with a silver spoon in your mouth that may be true, but please don't overly generalize because this ain't so.

What the heck does going on a school trip to Okinawa have to do with learning to swim? JHS kids dont come down here to lay on the beach and swim you know. Preconceived notions and assumptions. There are plenty of people in Okinawa too who can't swim and they live on an island. Go figure huh?

Like another poster mentioned and one with which I concur, just because kids learn the breast stroke or butterfly does NOT teach them how to deal with conditions in the ocean, a lake or a river.

It's sad that incidents like this occur, and I pray for the families of the deceased.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

RIP to the boys. It's sad we have to read about reports like this every summer. Kids need to learn what kind of situations to avoid -- like rivers with strong currents and jumping in the river fully clothed. I know for a fact kids learn in the school pool that you don't swim with all your clothes on, so not sure why these guys didn't think about that when they went to help their friend.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Children were observed in junior high school pools by ALTs. There were no teachers or adults supervising the area. The swimmers were flailing away in the pool trying to demonstrate the free-style. It was not swimming, it was survival and useless. Swimming needs to be a priority in the PE curriculum and added to Sports Day. Running around the track bare foot or building pyramids are not the only ways to demonstrate strength and cooperation/team spirit. Get the Olympic swimming team involved before more children are lost.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

still wearing their clothes

And with a strong current is what probably caused it. Stripping before swimming to save somebody is actually faster, as one swims much better without any clothing.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

The boy who originally got into trouble, is he by any chance the one who survived?

That would be very harsh if only his pals who tried to help him died....

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Swimming needs to be a priority in the PE curriculum

One, at least speaking for "down here" I have never heard of a public elementary school that did NOT have a pool. Which means that it IS a part of PE curriculum. In fact my daughter, when she was in ES learned to swim in a POOL in ES, but she still had to re-learn how to survive when swimming in the ocean.

Next, many if not most JHS have pools too. But not all due to budgetary restraints. Meaning that an overwhelming number of kids do learn how to swim better in a POOL. Not the ocean, not a river, not a lake, AND definitely not with their clothes on.

Your other comments are useless in relation to the topic so no further comment is necessary.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

All readers, please stay on topic. The children were all able to swim. It was a strong current that caused them difficulties.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Swimming in clothes is hard even under good conditions. And they jumped in in clothes to help someone who was in trouble in a current... not a good idea.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Still wearing clothes"

Since it's hot summer time and they went to the river, they probably were only wearing t-shirts and shorts.

-8 ( +4 / -12 )

This river is a death trap. Deceptively still and calm but very strong undertows. Kids die here almost every year and yet they still go there to swim. Totally crazy. Lessons never learned. And a total waste of young life..

0 ( +0 / -0 )

jamuraiJul. 31, 2012 - 12:35PM JST This river is a death trap. Deceptively still and calm but very strong undertows. Kids die here almost every year and yet they still go there to swim. Totally crazy. Lessons never learned. And a total waste of young life..

They really should put rescue devices along the river bank then. There's a similar river near where I live, and the bridges have life preserver floats on ropes attached to the - the idea presumably being that if your mate falls in then you dash up to the bridge and throw down a float as they pass underneath you, and then the rope keeps them from drifting too far away until you can go and call for help (or pull them in).

If it's possible to have fire extinguishers in every building then why not a plastic float and some rope on every bridge?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

RIP to the boys.

I thought we had actually gotten through a string of these comments without the requisite "RIP" -- but not quite. Often strikes me as rather faux sympathy, or a throwaway statement someone volunteers every time there is a death story.

I agree, however, about all the statements on hidden river dangers. I personally pulled five children and a couple of adults out of the upper reaches of the Tama River one summer day over the course of several hours. They all got into trouble trying to cross at a spot where the water was less than knee deep, but quickly lost their balance and fell over. Slippery rocks and a 6-knot current will do it every time.

We had hours of training in my kayaking club in the US on how to safely ride a rapids after coming out of your boat, but there were still some close calls. That was with protective gear, helmets, PFDs, and adults with quite a lot of experience.

There is safety video we would show new members that depicted a person who drowned in less than two feet of water. All it takes is catching your foot in a crack, falling over and not being able to get back up as a firehose of water rushes up your nose. It was a true story and happened to an experienced kayaker some of us knew in North Carolina. Her husband was right there but, struggling himself, he could not keep her head out of the water.

Letting youngsters play in some of these fast-flowing, bouldery Japanese rivers is just another form of child abuse.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

@Hunter, these kids were junior high students. Too silly to know better perhaps but leave the parents out of it. Kids do crazy stuff all the time and I'm sure you've had your fair share of danger. I know I did some scary and stupid stuff as a kid.

I rode my bike along that river once or twice and never thought of it as dangerous, saw a few people up to their knees fishing I think (was several years ago). Are there signs to warn people I wonder? Not a fail safe but better than nothing.

Silly me has crossed a torrent waist deep several times while hiking back to civilisation. I keep my boots on and use a staff for support. Not recommended for beginners because the risk of injury/drowning is very real, but if you need to do it, take every possible precaution. Test the torrent first, look for the best place to cross, etc. Worst case, take the long way home and live another day. There's plenty of people around the world who risk river crossings like this every day. People who live in first world countries take a lot for granted.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

All you people arguing should understand that this was an accident! Swimmers die more often compared to people who cannot swim simply because they go away from the bay!! People who cannot swim do not or cannot go to deep waters!!!

I feel sad for the parents, in this era when most of the parents have only one kid!! RIP young kids!!!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I can't imagine them wearing wool coats and sweaters in this weather. The clothes they had on couldn't be more than T-shirts and shorts. Who'd wear jeans to play in the river? They probably couldn't swim well and panicked. I doubt it was the weight of the clothes.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I wish Japan had more swimming pools and places children could learn to swim.

How can anyone learn to swim in this......... http://www.japantoday.com/category/picture-of-the-day/view/packed-in-2

I was a surf lifesaver in Oz for over twenty years and cannot count the amount of Japanese tourists I pulled out of the surf. I definitely agree there needs to be more emphasis put on swimming skills and general water safety in Japan. However, in this case, I doubt if it would have made any difference. A sad tale of boys being boys.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Heartbreaking.A very selfless effort by those two boys to try and save a friend.Trying to be proactive and paid a very heavy price.Their heroics will bring little respite for their parents.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Kids and adults drown every summer in other countries too. The main reason is because of parents.

I come from a family of really good swimmers, but I was brought up to be careful with rivers and oceans. Always surprised when people who aren't strong swimmers are over confident.

You either get your kids to be great swimmers, or teach them constantly about rivers, oceans and dangerous currents, not diving into water when you don't know the depth, etc, or preferably both.

Again, many people just don't think and aren't careful - and it's not only Japanese.

Go to Australia and people who aren't strong swimmers die all the time on unpatrolled beaches, when stronger swimmers take more care.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Is it true that rivers here have currents that actually pull swimmers down and submerge them under the water?? Would these kids have survived had they had inner tubes? Or life vests? I want to know. I want to try swimming in a few rivers in the countryside, to cool down, this month, but I am very wary of the unknown currents and various dangers when the river is a fairly deep one. We see kids swimming in rivers here and in the US, commonly, but what do we need to be especially careful of here in Japan when river-swimming? Any counsel from the experienced readers?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Is it true that rivers here have currents that actually pull swimmers down and submerge them under the water?

Yes, especially at a stronger bend, it can (and will) usually form a vortex, barely visible at the surface. In relatively large rivers these vortexes can be strong enough to kill somebody. Even in small rivers (3-4 m. deep) they can certainly pull one under, and then throw you to the side once you reached the bottom. From there one they are pretty easy to escape.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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