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5-year-old girl dies after being buried by snow falling from roof

67 Comments

A five-year-old girl died on Tuesday after snow fell off the roof of a shed and buried her at her grandfather's house in Kitakami City, Iwate Prefecture.

The accident occurred at about 11:45 a.m. while the child, identified as Misaki Sakaiya and her 2-year-old brother Yuto were playing in the snow, NHK reported.

Rescuers dug them out about an hour later and they were taken to hospital, where Misaki was pronounced dead.

The two children had come from Chiba Prefecture to visit their grandparents, NHK reported.

Authorities said the overnight rain pushed temperatures up slightly, causing snow on rooftops to start melting.

The land ministry has warned that melted snow freezes, creating a layer of ice, thus increasing the danger of chunks of snow falling from rooftops, as well as avalanches.

© Japan Today

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67 Comments
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The poor kid.... I know its been an extremely snowy winter in these areas but building their houses with a steeper slant to the roof in the future hopfully will prevent such sad events.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

The accident occurred at about 11:45 a.m. while the child, identified as Misaki Sakaiya and her 2-year-old brother Yuto were playing in the snow, NHK reported.

Rescuers dug them out about an hour later and they were taken to hospital, where Misaki was pronounced dead.

I discussed this terrible news with my husband this morning before he went to work and asked him why do Rescue services (Ambulances, FireFighters, etc) takes so much time in Japan, he answered me that unlike in many other countries, here the rescue services are not always close and ready, sometimes some phone calls and paperwork need to be done before they can be dispatched.

How sad really.

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

Where were the grandparents at the time? Why weren't they keeping an eye on the kids? Were they eating mikan in the kotatsu?

-22 ( +2 / -22 )

TWO and FIVE outside playing alone?! Wrong, wrong, wrong. More so when the TV news has been going on and on about the dangers of falling snow from roofs. Indeed an accident is an accident but a TWO year old outside alone?? Neglect. I am so sick and tired of reading reports like these. Yes, crappy parents/grandparents are everywhere, yes it happens in other countries but man, Japan has got to have one of the highest rates of child neglect deaths.

And I feel for the grandparents. They are going to have to live with this for the rest of their lives. Japan really, really needs to get some parenting classes for expecting parents and force them to attend. Better yet, have classes in junior/ high school (I did) abotu looking after kids. Long overdue.

-12 ( +3 / -17 )

I`m not understanding something here - I am assuming it was the grandparents who called the rescue services who then dug them out an hour later - did they make no attempt to dig them out themselves?

Secondly Franchesca what your husband said shocks the hell out of me - they get an emergency call, where minutes could mean the difference between life and death - and they stop to fill out paperwork and make phone calls???! Is that really true??!

Cadmium - I dont think you should jump to conclusions as everyone always seems to here whenever an accident occurs. We dont know where the grandparents were, how big the garden was, whether they were watching from the window, nothing. But I have to admit a 2 year old in particular shouldnt be out alone (5 year old cant possibly take responsibility) and if someone had actually seen the accident happen maybe they could have been rescued immediately instead of an hour later..

-8 ( +6 / -15 )

tmarie,

I share your concerns about the possible neglect, especially involving a two year old. However, considering it seems to have taken a rescue squad to come and dig the children out, I am not sure if having the grandparents their watching would have been much help in this case. Anyway, they really should have been watching the children. At the very least, they would have noticed the situation sooner and could have called for help that much sooner.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

The snow fell from the roof onto an area about 90 square meters and which was about 2 meters high. That's like having 2 or 3 cars falling on you. No wonder it took the rescue workers so long to dig them out. If there is 1 meter of snow on a 30 tsubo house, the snow can weigh up to 30 to 40 tons.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

Sad....

Carelessness of the Elders.

-9 ( +2 / -12 )

Tmarie is right on the money!! What kind of idiot fools let their kids go play outside in these dangerous conditions with out any adult supervision?? Let me guess they were indoors all drunk?? RIP little girl

-25 ( +2 / -24 )

As CrazyJoe alluded to, the weight can equal up to 40 tons with an impact of several cars falling onto to you. This could of very well happened while all three( including the grandfather) just simply walked outside along the house with all three most likely ending up dead.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

You'd think the grand-parent in charge would have known better in such conditions, to let a toddler and a small child play outside unattended...

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

Nicky: "I`m not understanding something here - I am assuming it was the grandparents who called the rescue services who then dug them out an hour later - did they make no attempt to dig them out themselves?"

THIS is the part that concerns me. They may well have made efforts to get them out, of course, as there are no details, but it seems they just waited by for the rescue crews to come (which took an hour!). As for the kids playing alone, I think people are being too harsh. It's not like the grandparents sent them off to the local park or to go buy ice cream -- they were playing in the yard, and in all likelihood could be seen from the house, as well as the yard being closed off by fence/gate.

All around sad story. As it was probably not enough snow to keep from someone digging themselves out, my guess is that there was indeed a layer of ice formed underneath and the weight crushed the poor girl. RIP. Sad day when it should have just been fun in the snow.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

According to the local newspaper, the two children were making a snowman with the grandfather when the snow fell off the roof and buried the children. Both children were completely covered under a sheet of show measuring 15 m by 5m and 80cm thick. Neighbours told the newspaper that while the rescue services were working, the grandfather was frantically digging in the snow looking for the children. He was not sitting under the kotatsu eating mikan, nor was he 'all drunk'. He was on the scene and able to call for help immediately. The children were not playing alone, there was no neglect, only a (terrible) failure to realise that conditions were ripe for the snow to melt and slip.

Poor little Misaki-chan was apparently uninjured and died of asphyxiation.

17 ( +18 / -3 )

Readers, please refrain from making offensive (and stupid) remarks like the grandparents were "indoors all drunk."

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Very sad indeed but amazing that the two-year-old managed to survive. I wonder if he didn't panic as much because he had no idea what was going on.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

How terrible. Those poor kids. Poor grandad.I cannot imagine how frantic he must have been. This isn't neglect. The children were playing in the garden with their grandfather making a snowman. My heart goes out to them all. The grandfather is probably going to relive this everyday of his life.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Thanks cleo for the detailed post.

Such a tragic accident. I just hope the rescue's response time would be shortened, considering that Japan has a good telecommunications system (*cough except for some weird mobile service disruptions). Paperworks can be done on the way, and finalized after rescue.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

In my home country, a property owner is responsible for any injury caused by snow or ice falling of the roof. (I guess something like criminal negligence in American law). I feel for all involved here. But if you are not able to clear the snow of your roof, no one should be playing or walking within 5 meters of that building. And as someone already suggested, steeper roofs is the answer to solve the problem.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

RIP

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The usual sanctimonious JT crew pointing fingers as per usual. Few seem to realize the huge volume of the snow that fell, few gave the grandpa any credit -automatically accusing him of gross drunk negligence when in all likelihood he was frantically digging . Thank you Cleo for shedding more light on this vague news report and confirming what most sensible logical people were thinking anyway. The real tragedy here is a little girl died while enjoying some playtime and there wasn't a community response of days of old where dozens of locals would turn up in minutes to help dig out, then again there may have been no one for miles. Sure the emergency services were delayed, it is hard to negotiate treacherous roads in what looks a pretty rural area. (check google maps) When not in full possession of the facts its best to keep ones cynical tongue holstered.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Nicky: Try and call an ambulance and see what happens. The ambulance may get to the scene quite quickly and promptly load the patient into the back, efficiency ends there. The attendants are not allowed to do anything other than take your temperature and blood pressure and then comes the wait. Yes, you will sit in the ambulance outside your building while they make a flurry of phone calls trying to find a hospital that will accept you. This could take 10 minutes but it may also take an hour or two and in the mean time you just have to wait. My advice to everyone is to know which hospital has a 24 hour emergency room and if you are seriously injured or really sick call a taxi and go directly to the hospital. They cannot turn you away once you are there and if you are really bad off you will been seen before other less serious cases. People die in the back of ambulance while waiting to get accepted to a hospital all the time, don't take the chance.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Failure to realize?! The news has been staring for over a week now how dangerous it is. By all means play outside but pick a place that is safe! I feel for the grandfather but come on! How many deaths and rescues have there been this week now?!

-3 ( +2 / -6 )

Tmarie,

How dangerous what is? If going outside to your backyard during a clear day doesn't constitute safe, I suppose you are always inside the house, I presume. Judging by the number of posts you rack up, I won't be surprised.

Again, hindsight is and always. 20/20. Millions of children play in the snow all over the world. And in 99.99999999% of the time, nothing serious happens although you can use your imagination to the fullest and come up with the potential dangers.

-1 ( +6 / -6 )

there was no neglect, only a (terrible) failure to realize that conditions were ripe for the snow to melt and slip.

It shouldn't be a news-flash that rain brings melting snow and standing directly below a snow-covered roof is dangerous. The grandfather lives in that area, after all.

I feel for all involved here. But if you are not able to clear the snow off your roof, no one should be playing or walking within 5 meters of that building

Agree!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Horribly tragic.

Prayers.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Watching the local news this morning the announcer said that the girl was found on top of her younger brother. This may have been a protective reflex, it may have just been coincidence, either way it is likely that the air bubble between their two bodies enabled the little boy to survive.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

@Pamelot: Totally agree. Unless the house was just recently built he should have... over the years... just by observation, known that snow would often slide of the roof in that spot. However, that said... again, this is a year of extreme snowfalls and it could have been a first. I've lived in a snowbelt before and almost every year, depending on the amount of snowfall... saw large amounts of snow slide off of my roof... often on the sunny warmer days.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

cleo: Thanks for the detailed information. I'm glad and relieved to hear that the grandfather did all he could to save the two kids, and saddened that for Misaki his efforts did not work out. I did not at all think that grandma and grandpa were sitting under the kotatsu eating mikan, and I think it's a shame some suggested he (they) might be drunk, but the article did not give any details as to what he (they) did.

The outcome is still as sad.

nigelboy: "How dangerous what is?"

I agree with you (save for where you veer off to insult Tmarie and suggest her posting on here means she does nothing but stay indoors), and can most certainly say that what SHOULD be safe is not necessarily so. As a kid in a very snowy part of Canada we were ALWAYS taught to be wary when playing in the snow near houses, and not to wander under the eaves of buildings with icicles and what not for this very reason.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Please stop blaming the grandparents. The grandfather might have taken precautions but something unforseen might have happened (more snow fell from the roof than normal or it fell in an unusual way). And even with adults, kids can be very unpredictable - who is to say the girl was told not to go near the roof? We weren't there and some of you would have kids tied up and locked in a closet to protect them.

My son almost got crushed by a kayak blowing off a car roof in freak gust of wind. It landed right next to him. Accidents happen. Now I always make sure he is nowhere near or inside the car so that he can't be hurt no matter what. Lesson learned, fortunately not the hard way.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@Cleo THANK YOU for providing some key details to the story there. It all makes a lot more sense now. I get that with hindsight the children shouldn't have been there but c'mon , this was obviously a doting grandad at he very least and two little ones thrilled to be playing in the snow. Do people really think he would have risked the children if he had known the dangers? He and the whole family must be absolutely devastated right now and my heart goes out to them. I have literally just come from watching my sons class show - 30 5 year old boys and girls, and I couldn't stop thinking about this poor poor family.

@jeff-yes, I know all about ambulance response from the time my husband was knocked off his bike on a crossing and I totally agree. If you can, get to a hospital by taxi! The taxi driver is probably more qualified to help you than the "paramedics". They left my husband bleeding on the street and came straight per to lecture me about rising my bike safely! It was a joke! Then the first thing they did when I pointed him out lying in the street was move him. No checking for neck or spine injuries. I screamed at them not to move him but they just told me to shut up and let them " do their job". They were awful.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

@Antony-that's just terrible. It's every mothers worst nightmare, something like this. Life can be incredibly cruel. The one tiny shred of consolation one can take from this is that the little girl was almost certainly having a blast right up to the moment of the accident and hopefully it happened so fast she never knew what happened. I think as a mother thinking anything else would make me insane.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

@Jeff Ryan: In this case the inadequate rescue services of Japan were only able to lift the children by helicopter to the hospital.

Japan is far from perfect, but certain people on this website really do need to take a stress pill.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

One article states that it took roughly an hour to retrieve the girl from the actual time of the accident while another article states that it took 40min. For the rescuers to dig up the girl. Doing a simple math gives 20min. Response time.

1 ( +7 / -5 )

Nigel, sorry but with all the weather warnings and snow warnings it has been pretty loud and clear that snow falling off roofs is a huge danger right now. As smith said, some of us were. Fought up understanding the issues and dangers. Heck, one would think others would know the same with all the warnings and comments about it. Head to the park or play in an area where there isn't danger of this happening. As for sitting inside, not at all. Those smart phones sure are handy when traveling, aren't they?

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

Tmarie. Please give up. The increased chances of snow falling off roofs were addressed when the weather forecasted INCREASED TEMPERATURES.

0 ( +7 / -6 )

Perhaps you haven't been watching the news. Increased temps, more snow... Been warnings now everyday. Perhaps you should give it up?! How many deaths and rescues this week alone?!

-4 ( +2 / -7 )

 気象庁によると、7日は暖流が流れ込んだ影響で太平洋側を中心に気温が上がり、各地で3~4月並みとなった。同庁は「寒い日の合間に断続的に暖かい日が出てくると落雪や雪崩が起きやすくなる」と注意を呼びかけている。

http://sankei.jp.msn.com/affairs/news/120207/dst12020715480011-n1.htm

Wrong tmarie. We are talking about snow falling off roofs, correct???

1 ( +6 / -4 )

@nigel

That report you posted had a timestamp of 18:44 on Feb 7 ... which was more than 7 hours after the accident. I also found this article, which was posted at 15:41, also hours after the accident:

http://tenki.jp/forecaster/diary/detail-4292.html

Off-topic:

Any news on the Tokyo Sky Tree's snow buildup (or lack thereof) over the past cold snap?

-1 ( +2 / -2 )

Elvensilvan,

Your point?? Based on your link, it appears that this accident was as a result of (底なだれ) which us caused by increase in temperature. And according to the Mainichi article of this accident,

盛岡地方気象台によると、北上市では事故前日の6日、最高気温が4・3度と寒さが緩み、雨も降った。7日も午前11時の気温が1・9度から正午には3・2度に上昇した。午前11時の積雪は26センチで、融雪・雪崩注意報は出ていなかった。

The accidents that has been happening previous to this are as a result of snow removal mostly, like people falling off roofs, getting hit by snow plow, and snow avalanche.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Oh! shocked!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Terrible tragedy

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@nigelboy

The point is, government warnings and notices are usually late, so we can't always rely on forecasts, which is the main point of your arguments.

Before the weekend's cold snap, the weather bureau's temperature forecast for Nagoya was -1 ºC for 3 AM Monday, but was changed to -5 ºC (which was the day's lowest temperature at 3 AM) at 11 in the morning, 7 hours too late.

Also, as you yourself posted, advisories were not issued:

融雪・雪崩注意報は出ていなかった。

The increased chances of snow falling off roofs were addressed when the weather forecasted INCREASED TEMPERATURES.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Most of you with negative comments on this really have way too much time on your hands. Do you really think that the grand parent would intentionlly place his grand children in harms way? it's a freak accident. I'm sure that this grand father has lived in that home for many many years and is fully aware of the dangers of snow. You can't blame the emergency services either, this is the by product of resource poor areas of Japan. This area is not like Tokyo or Osaka where one would hope for a quick response. Feel free to read this article about how rural Japan is struggling: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-06/hula-girls-revive-quake-hit-fukushima-town.html It's pretty bad and will get even worse for this towns/villages. Again, freak and very tragic accident. My condolences to the family.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

It's common knowledge if you live in snowy regions that "DO NOT PLAY UNDER THE EAVES". Children in the regions are taught by parents, neighbors, teachers, even its warning is written on municipal government website and brochure.

The children and the grandfather were making a snowman 2~3 meters away from the eaves. Maybe the grandfather thought 2~3 meters away is safe enough, but unfortunately it wasn't.

The family (reside in Kashiwa Chiba) were planning to visit their grandfather during new years day, but he told them not to come because it's not safe due to heavy snow.

Kids in Kashiwa, Chiba can never experience this amount of snow. I bet they were excited about playing in the snow, but this happened.

Add to cleo's post, the grandfather (calling the kids name loud), other family members, 10 people from the neighborhood, and rescue workers were digging, and it took them nearly 1 hour to find the kids.

RIP

4 ( +6 / -2 )

the article says NOThing about the children being left unattended . they may have been watching the kids play from a few meters away & were too old to dig them out themselves , so called emergency services. japanese grandparents take better care of their grandchildren then the parents do . seems like a total accident & totally sad for sure .

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Accidents do happen, this may have just been one terrible accident, maybe they should have made sure that snow was pushed off the roof before this family with young kids came up to visit, we can only guess. The sad truth is that now, a 5 year old little girl is dead. She can no longer play, go to school, anything, now her family will have to live with this terrible pain, sadness for the rest of their lives. RIP little girl going to visit her grandparents.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

I can't believe how many people are pointing negligent fingers at the GPs! This was a tragic accident! Possibly, and only possibly, the GPs should have been aware of the danger, but that is all!

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

I think the caregiver was at fault here.

He chose to allow the children to play in a very dangerous place.

If I were him I would blame myself and would expect to be blamed by all around me.

Think about it, you wouldn't choose to play ball with tiny kids next to very busy road.

If you did and they ran out into the road to chase the ball, IMHO it would be your fault.

This was avoidable. The caregiver should have known better. It's his fault.

-2 ( +3 / -6 )

@Nicky Washida

I gave you a 'good'!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I always blame the elders if the kids went wrong...

kids know nothing..

ignorance makes accidents.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Scary stuff! This happened to me when I was 11 years old. I checked the roof in the morning and didn't notice the layer of ice that was on it. I played all day and in the evening the snow slip off the roof burrying me completely. Luckily I had an air-bubble. I couldn't move and I screamed but no one could hear me. My friend, who was only half burried went looking for me. After about a half hour I was dug out. Scary thoughts going through my mind during that time. It was only January so I figured that my body would be found in March when the snow melted. I hope that the little girl didn't suffer.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Choi waruu kyaji and Tmarie took the words right of my mouth!! People who think the parents are completely innocent have way too much free time in their hands!!

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

How is this any different from taking the children to a ball game (and getting hit with a foul ball) or if they were in a convenience store (and a car that lost control stormed in)? It was a freak accident, not everything is negligence. If your children have ever been injured, were you negligent? And yes, the grandfather could've been more cautious, but he's probably lived there for years without anything like this happening.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The point is, government warnings and notices are usually late, so we can't always rely on forecasts, which is the main point of your arguments.

Elvensilvan

That's not my point at all. My point was to counter Tmarie's assertion that this incident could have been prevented based on " with all the weather warnings and snow warnings it has been pretty loud and clear that snow falling off roofs is a huge danger right now."

As your previous link indicated, the snows came falling off the roof due to 底なだれ which happens when temperature increases. This wasn't the accidents which was happening across Japan prior.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Never leave little kids to play in the snow, just basic common sense that seems to be lacking here. Imagine how the parents feel, where were they though, I wonder?

-6 ( +0 / -7 )

AmericanForeigner - Have you not read a sinlge thing others have contributed to this story?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

So Nigel are you suggesting that falling snow off roofs isn't a problem?! Are you saying there have been no warnings and the topic wasn't covered in the news?! Surely you can admit it has been in the news a lot - straight from jt actually. What exactly is your point besides arguing?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@jojo_in_japan: A freak accident is an airplane part falling from a flying plane and hitting somebody. Snow sliding off a roof on a sunny warmer day is not a freak event.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Not at all tmarie.

Falling snow off roofs are not common during the initial snow storm where it just accumulates. This is why people climb on roofs to remove them or else the roofs collapse. And furthermore, that's where most of the accidents took place during the initial part of this snow storm.(people, not snow, falling off roofs)

And no. There has not been a warning of Nadare or Rakusetsu (I.e falling snow off roofs) until yesterday when the temperature increased to March/April levels. Now, the advisory for Nadare and Rakusetsu are in place in many locations due to new snow accumulating on top of the partially melted old snow which is icy.

My point. The warnings, advisory, and type of accidents reported last week up until yesterday are completely different from this incident.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Jeff RyanFEB. 08, 2012 - 10:06AM JST

Nicky: Try and call an ambulance and see what happens. The ambulance may get to the scene quite quickly and promptly load the patient into the back, efficiency ends there. The attendants are not allowed to do anything other than take your temperature and blood pressure and then comes the wait. Yes, you will sit in the ambulance outside your building while they make a flurry of phone calls trying to find a hospital that will accept you. This could take 10 minutes but it may also take an hour or two and in the mean time you just have to wait. My advice to everyone is to know which hospital has a 24 hour emergency room and if you are seriously injured or really sick call a taxi and go directly to the hospital. They cannot turn you away once you are there and if you are really bad off you will been seen before other less serious cases. People die in the back of ambulance while waiting to get accepted to a hospital all the time, don't take the chance.

Thats exactly what my husband told me. I'm glad I'm not the only who knows the "truth" about the ambulances/Rescue services in here. He always taught me to call a taxi and go directly to the hospital in case of a real emergency. Avoid ambulances as much as you can!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Was no one watching these kids? Call the neighbors and friends to come help dig the kids out. You only need one person to dial.

I'm sorry but this is neglect. You never let kids that young play anywhere without some type of supervision.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Al, read the posts.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

We obviously watch different news programs because the ones I havebeen watching have been warning for well over a week about falling snow. I'm pretty sure they all have but go on, argue it.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

As usual of a terrible accident becomes a ridiculous argument here on Japan today. yes it is an accident. Accidents like this are horrible however blaming the grandparents or the rescue team is just not right. Some of you bang on about child neglect and abuse, it happens a lot in Japan you say. Hell NO. Have you read about stories in S.A, China, .........L.A? . We only think it happens more here because thats what we tend to read and of course it shocks us. Stop Japan bashing RIP little one

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Stop Japan bashing

As usual...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is heart breaking...I hope it was a quick and painless death. I can't imagine how scared she must have been....and her poor brother...I hope with his young age he can block it from his memory. But the grandfather won't have that luxury, he may be to blame, and I'm sure he WILL blame himself for the rest of his life. No one deserves to live with that guilt.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I understand that some people are upset about some of the comments about neglect on the part of the grandparents. And i retract my statement from before as now i have more information. But many of the statements about neglect are not the fault of the commenter but the fault of the article not being complete in details. many people who read these articles are reading while on break or while killing time so NO, They dont have time to read a dozen comments or go to links that people post. So yeah you are going to get a lot of comments that you may think are wrong, specially if you DO have time to read all the post and check the link. All I'm saying is be fair and understand that.

With that i apologize for my comment. It was made 5 mins before i had to work based on the info that i read in the article.

To JT, maybe some of your admin she take a look into providing links to more detailed info or just putting in more detail.

RIP to the small one and condolences to the family

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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