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Family sues Saitama Prefecture after daughter dies during school walkathon

49 Comments

The bereaved family of a 17-year-old girl who died during a school walkathon in Saitama City's Omiya Ward last year has filed a lawsuit, claiming that her death was due to authorities' failure to promptly use an automated external defibrillator (AED).

The incident occurred on Oct 16, 2015, when the girl collapsed after about 75 minutes into the 13-kilometer walkathon arranged by Saitama Prefectural Omiya Senior High School, Fuji TV reported. She became unconscious. It took 20 minutes before a teacher arrived with an AED but by then, the girl was dead.

According to the suit filed this week at the Saitama District Court, the girl's father stated, “A year and two months have passed since my daughter’s death. During the past year, I began to feel that there are grave problems in our society and my desire to ask the public these questions is why I have filed this suit."

The suit claims the high school failed to consider the students' physical condition prior to the race and neglected to employ appropriate measures by failing to use an AED in time when the girl collapsed. The suit seeks 73 million yen in compensation from the Saitama prefectural government.

The school did not hold a walkathon this year.

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49 Comments
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It took 20 minutes before a teacher arrived with an AED but by then, the girl was dead.

Feckless efforts at containing the issue? It's not like they don't have ambulances in Omiya.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

For a physically demanding event such as this the school is responsible to have a medical emergency plan in place in case anything happens. In this case it did and they were at fault.

Typically during such an even, one will see a van or school car leading and tailing the events participants, and giving lifts to those who can not continue and have first aid equipment on hand.

20 minutes is WAY too long to respond.

15 ( +17 / -2 )

the high school failed to consider the students’ physical condition prior to the race (walkathon)

The sentence above has me wondering.

In their myopic quest to instill students with a group mentality, Japanese schools often have every student take part in every event, few or no exceptions. I have seen this numerous times. (As one of many examples, teachers will have native-speaking returnee students in the 7th grade taking English with all the other students, many with virtually no exposure to English, all learning the ABCs together. No special study hall or alternative curriculum for the sake of maintaining the group mindset.)

In this case, I am left wondering if this student's physical condition was such that it would be unwise to have her participate in a 13-kilometer walkathon. I'm guessing that is likely the case.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

I hope this case is a win for the family. Schools need to think more about individual students more.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Such routine yearly activities fail to provide essential safety measures .

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Yubaru - For a physically demanding event such as this

Physically demanding? It was a walkathon, not a marathon! And, it was only 13 kilometers in October, which is autumn and not very hot. A 'normal' teenager should be able to do this with ease. I did a 15 kilometer walk with the school I work in a few months ago and I'm in my 50's. No doubt this girl had health issues that caused her to collapse. Her death was her parents' fault for letting her take part in the event. They must have known she had health issues or, if they didn't know, they are even more at fault. Furthermore, there is nothing to say an AED would have saved her life. Those AEDs are dangerous and could kill someone if used improperly. Blaming the teachers and the lack of an AED is absurd! The blame lays with the parents for letting her participate. I'm also going to guess that, none of the teachers knew how to give CPR either, which is not the fault of the teachers. That is the fault of the society in general. All teachers should have to complete a basic CPR and first aid training course.

0 ( +14 / -14 )

An AED is not dangerous, and will not deliver a shock unless needed.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

"During the past year, I began to feel that there are grave problems in our society and my desire to ask the public these questions is why I have filed this suit.”

Is "grave" really the right word to use here? But, c'mon, a 17-year-old girl can't walk 75 minutes without dropping to the ground with a heart attack? I feel for the family, but like mentioned before, something was wrong with this girl. Sure, given the ease at which these AEDs can be carried around, the school should have had one on hand, and maybe this can serve as a wake-up call for schools around the country to be properly prepared. Seems like having passed a physical would also be something schools should require before participation in a sports event.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Physically demanding? It was a walkathon, not a marathon! And, it was only 13 kilometers in October, which is autumn and not very hot. A 'normal' teenager should be able to do this with ease. I did a 15 kilometer walk with the school I work in a few months ago and I'm in my 50's. No doubt this girl had health issues that caused her to collapse. Her death was her parents' fault for letting her take part in the event. They must have known she had health issues or, if they didn't know, they are even more at fault. Furthermore, there is nothing to say an AED would have saved her life. Those AEDs are dangerous and could kill someone if used improperly. Blaming the teachers and the lack of an AED is absurd! The blame lays with the parents for letting her participate.

Waking 13 km is physically demanding. We know nothing about the girl, the parents, her medical condition, so you can't say with any authority that it is their fault. There are many ways in which a seemingly healthy person can die from physical burdens, including walking 13km (despite it being so easy for you). The school, being in charge of the event and its emergency response, should have been better prepared for this eventuality.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

All teachers at my school are licensed to perform CPR and take a refresher course every two years. I would assume that all schools enforce CPR training. They would probably have been performing CPR while they waited for the AED to arrive--as one is taught to do in the mandatory training.

The fact is that an AED should have been brought along on an event like that--walking 13 km may not be particularly strenuous for some, but it is for others.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I am trained in CPR and 1st Aid, it is part of getting a Driver Licence back home and we need to carry a 1st Aid kit with us at all times.

Refusing/failing to give aid is punishable, cops love to stop you and check the content(controlled) to pass the time.

Respons in this case was too slow and inaquedate.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

rainyday - There are many ways in which a seemingly healthy person can die from physical burdens, including walking 13km

Yeah, lightening! She didn't walk 13 kilometers!

A normal healthy 17 year old should be able to walk 13 kilomerters without raising a sweat. She didn't even complete the 13 kilometers - 75 minutes is only around 8-10 kilometers. Which brings me back to my main point, this girl must have had other health issues to cause her to collapse and die after walking such a short distance and her parents must have known about it. Even if it was something as simple as being malnourished, it is still the parents' fault.

Pacech1967 - I am trained in CPR and 1st Aid,

Yeah, but could you use it if you had to? I was a senior surf lifesaver in Australia for over 20 years and have given CPR to 10 people, 8 of which survived. The other two had been in the water too long. Knowing CPR and performing it are two completely different issues.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

I'm going to speculate that if an AED had been available and used, the parents would still blame someone and file a lawsuit. Striking out at someone for their loss is common for parents who lose a child. They feel helpless and want someone to pay.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

I've been surprised in the past with my own kids at school here, at sports club tournaments it was obvious no-one knew much about first aid.

One timea basic procedure like R.I.C.E. wasn't utilized at a hand-ball event I was at for a girl on an opposing team. She sat out the day on a bench after a twist & fall. Maybe she was fine, I don't know, but looked nasty. It seems 1st aid qualifications are spread thinly amongst the education fraternity, rather than being ubiquitous.

This topics sad case we don't know what went on, but Yubaru's comment is to the point,

"...Typically during such an even, one will see a van or school car leading and tailing the events participants, and giving lifts to those who can not continue and have first aid equipment on hand.

20 minutes is WAY too long to respond...."

Organisers of sports events need to understand their FIRST priority is the well being of participants. Period. As a teacher and swimming instructor in my home country, this was drilled in.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Yes, I would use it and have done so many times succesfully. I can also perform CPR on an infant and have done so. The trsining we do is in-depth and goes for a few days. As I said it is part of a licince.

Our compulsory military training gives us more training for men and women(voluntary).

On same token every citizen can swim and can perform rescue,part of PT in school for anyone aged 12.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Why were they waiting on a teacher? Why not an ambulance? There has to be at least one cell phone in a group of 17 year olds? Maybe these are the questions that need to be asked.........

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Refusing/failing to give aid is punishable

Morally reprehensible, but it's not a crime to refuse to treat someone.

It took 20 minutes before a teacher arrived with an AED but by then, the girl was dead.

Is it realistic to expect staff to watch every student for every minute of a walkathon? Perhaps staff were looking for her during these twenty minutes. It's a pity there seemed to have been no other students or passers by to summon an ambulance for this unfortunate girl.

All most healthy teenagers and adults would get from walking 13 kilometres in October is the odd blister. Unless the girl had a known condition, I really don't see that the school could have reasonably predicted this outcome. Unfortunately, taking the school authorities to court will result in defensive practices where schools don't organise any events for fear of litigation - just like in the U.S. and U.K.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Diffrrence in cultures, wait for X as he/she is responsible and wil take the blame in case.

Add in that will panic, etc.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I did a 15 kilometer walk with the school I work in a few months ago and I'm in my 50's

I suppose it was uphill both ways and in a blizzard too, right?

One can not use their own physical capabilities to compare with another, the school was wrong, and to the unprepared, a 13 KM walk can be very physically demanding, not to mention SHE passed out, the school failed in it's responsibility to the student here.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Walking in the autumn is not the same as running laps around the baseball field in mid-summer. There was no reason to think this would happen. It may have been prudent to have an AED on hand, but the school should not be held liable unless they knew she had problems and did not make arrangements for her.

I think this is one time that the it's-very-regrettable-but-we're-going-to-bow-and-move-on thing is appropriate.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Same here pacech, where I come from deliberately failing to provide assistance to a person in danger is 'reprehensible' and in this case the bloke/ppl from the school who stood there and waited for help to arrive would be in trouble. Could/should they have done more, faster etc are questions that would be asked.

Also agree with disillusioned and don't get the down votes: I would not call a 13km walk that physically demanding for most ppl aged between 15 to 65yo. They called it a 'walkathon' but could also have been a '2 hour fun walk". Not as daunting yet its basically the same. Also agree re first aid: got qualified in my late teens (25y ago) and have to say am not sure I would be able to put my first aid skills into practice if I had to. Would def have a crack but dunno if I would do the right thing the right way. Society (through work, sports clubs etc) should ensure everyone is trained to assist when required. truth is most of us aren't.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I did a 15 kilometer walk with the school I work in a few months ago and I'm in my 50's

What pomp. Good on you for being that fit, but everyone isn't. The authorities must realise that there will be kids who, even knowingly will enter such events. That's the spirit of sport and competition. This is a clear fail on the organisers' part. 20 minutes!!! Was there no medical van/car. Poor girl and very very sad for her family.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Godorak.

Thx, but disagree 1st aid skills should not deteriorate.

As for walking,etc i still do 10km a day at age 50 and don't break a sweat.

As I said different cultures and mindsets, recall having to swim 1km in under 30min, etc as a pre-teen.

Something that most people way older can equal.

The real question is why they can't or won't.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Yubaru - One can not use their own physical capabilities to compare with another, the school was wrong, and to the unprepared, a 13 KM walk can be very physically demanding, not to mention SHE passed out, the school failed in it's responsibility to the student here.

No they didn't! Teenagers do not just drop dead after walking less than 10 kilometers unless there are underlying health issues. The issue of the AED is irrelevant because there is no proof it would have saved her life even if they had it. Her parents are to blame for letting her participate in the event. They must have known she had health issues. It's just not possible for her to drop dead without underlying health issues. She was walking in autumn with daytime temps in the mid-20's and walked less than 10 kilometers. Even if she had an unknown health issue it is not the fault of the school because it was 'unknown'! This suit should be thrown out the window!

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

The suit claims the high school failed to consider the students’ physical condition

Something is missing here, the school had medical reports of all students and knew exactly which students had medical problems that makes walking a grave? The parents said that she had to join because the school required it and the walkathon is more important than living? If my kids had a condition that disallowed them to take an autumn walk, I would keep my kid home that day if I knew full well that my kid might be in grave danger.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@pacech, sure they 'should not deteriorate' but unfortunately most skills do when one ceases to practice. My CPR skils cant be as good now as they were 20 years ago (after a 6 month first aid course) as I have never had to put them into practice. And reckon its the same for most ppl, unfortunately

But perhaps it is our (individuals) responsibility to attend some sort of follow up sessions every X years.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Wrong, you are limiting yourself those skills are still as good. Granted your physical abilities might be diminished but is just one factor.

I still outperform my MA students who are 30yrs my junior you learn to adapt. My own teacher is his 90's now and I can't equal him.

Ditto for my wife who in her 30's performed Tai Ji till 2 weeks before giving birth.

You are limited by your own thoughts and actions.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Browsed Japanese news articles a bit and piped them through google translate.

Which is always questionable, but turned up some indications of some things that may or may not be: it was a marathon or a 'struggle tournament', it was one way through the Arakawa riverbed (which could mean only a few easy points of access spaced well apart, and also could mean much of the course was far from medical or other facilities or even adult supervision), and it was a rainy day.

In USA, the only walkathons I've seen for schoolkids have been in elementary school, and those were on circular tracks, with lots of access to facilities and water. The high school kids here go for track meets. Not saying other states or districts don't have high school walkathons, though.

Also, high humidity conditions are not really good to compete in intensive events in.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@Disillusioned Her parents are to blame for letting her participate in the event. They must have known she had health issues.

We really don't know if this is true. In my high school year I played on my school's competitive tennis team. I had to have a physical done for this and everything came back clear. I was physically fit and health to be involved in school sports. About three weeks into the season we were running warms up, nothing to strenuous just lite jogging and stretching when I passed out. Turns out I had a serious medical condition that just doesn't appear in normal and sports physical check ups. My point being is you really don't know the girls medical standing before the event without her medical charts. It is possible for a teenager who seams perfectly healthy, even to medical professionals, to fall into a serious condition suddenly under what seams like little strain. While it could still be possible that the parents knew that the student could be in harm's way by such an event, there are also other options. For you to remain so adamant that the parents are at fault when you don't know what the full facts are is wrong.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

@peach1967

"According to the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council, CPR skill retention declines within a few months of initial training – and continues to decline as time goes by. In addition, the council found that less than half of course participants can pass a skills test one year after training. This means that just one year into your two-year CPR certification, you may not remember how to help when you're needed most."

http://www.redcross.org/take-a-class/cpr/cpr-training/cpr-renewal

2 ( +3 / -1 )

All sorts of judgement in this thread without enough facts to accurately do so.

Just another day at JT.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Hmm, if students are walking at their own pace, like the marathons I've seen at elementary school, they will get very spread out over 13km. The front and back could be two to three km apart after an hour. That has to be considered when judging whether 20 minutes is too long to respond. The course may not have fantastic car access like the London Marathon.

The actual act of walking 13km at your own pace and with the option of dropping out (both assumed here) should not prove fatal and suggests there were preconditions for the girl. Kids will run mini-marathons at school every year, so there would have been plenty of opportunities to pick up on it. Most people who visit Disneyland even will walk for much more than the equivalent of 75 minutes (possibly under 5km). That may be enough for people with medical conditions to start struggling or feel faint, but they shouldn't be allowed or forced into walkathons.

I would be more than happy for parents of a child injured in a high human pyramid, or a judo lesson led by an untrained teacher (pretty common by the sounds), to sue the school, but without more information, this doesn't strike me as especially negligent.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Skill decline is a given unless YOU make an effort to keep it current no need to pay for a refresher course either.

Like I said culture and mindset. Refute that one. ;)

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

@Disillusioned - I agree with you that the AED may have been ineffective, but I'm a little curious why school officials waited 20 minutes for the device. If the situation was dire enough where an AED was deemed necessary, then surely an ambulance should have been called, as well. That's where I see the school's actions as lacking.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

While I agree on skill decline I have experienced people performing it succesfull after learning it 30-40yrs ago.

Nuff said.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

As said above 17 year old should be able to walk 13 km with no issue whatsoever., she probably had heart issues and should have been discovered during medical check which subsequently should have prevented her joining any physical activities. Blaming the school or the teachers is irresponsible and wrong, the fault is with parents and with regular health check doctors because such conditions should have been discovered sooner.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Teenagers do not just drop dead after walking less than 10 kilometers unless there are underlying health issues.

Unless I missed something in the article, she did not just drop dead, it took 20 minutes.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Why don,t, the Teachers and students have an 1st Aid App on there phones. If I was the principle, It would a standard requirement for all phones on school grounds or at school function to have a department approve 1st Aid app. These Apps first reponse is to tell the user to call Emergency which a ring button drops down with the local Emergency number. It give you a read out of your position to tell emergency. Once the call is over the app continues to tell you what to do for most emergency. A 5 year old can use on successfully.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I just looked at the Yomiuri Shimbun and the girl covered 11.4km in the 75 minutes. i.e., this is not a "walking" event. Let's not play along with nonsensical euphemisms that mislead people. Even the Yomiuri says that in the event, the students "aruita" around a park and along a river. Nobody arukus at 6min/km pace, This girl died during a 13k run.

So I'd just like to take back what I wrote above about walking. For non-sporty people, even "couch to 5km" type running programs should be approached with caution. Long distance running can easily cause dangerous levels of exhaustion, even in fit people.

Moderator: No, it was a walkathon.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

An app won't replace actual trainng as you can kill someone that don't need CPR.

AED was supposed to be the answer to it but agan it is not failsafe.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

What is with 73?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

What I would have liked to see in the article was where was the AED and why did it take 20 min to reach her? Also when was an ambulance called? Were the students allowed to carry their cell phones whild on the walk?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

IF she had a medical condition, why did her parents allow her to take part? This is what gets me with many Japanese parents. THEY allow the school to decide what is best for their child and when something happens, THEY blame the teachers. If your child has a medical issue, YOU take the responsibility for the child and say "Nope, not happening, she's not walking." The school can't fail her for these things. They didn't though and now they are suing. Insane.

As for 20 minutes and no AED, I can easily see that happening. I'm assuming it was a school event so how many students? Hundreds. I highly doubt there are teachers with all the students. A kid passes out, students start to freak, no calls a teacher or an ambulance, a teacher comes up two minutes later, listens to the kids, calls someone to get an AED. That person has to get it and bring it. We've got AEDs all over the place and no doubt it would take at least five minutes to get one if someone did straight out go and get it themselves and bring it back and now how to use it.

The lack of first aid training here by any staff - company, teacher, shopping centre... is shocking. They waste their time on silly useless fire/ambulance drills year after year with the students but very few actually could handle an event like this.

Japanese parents, smarten up and stop expecting the student to make all the decisions for your kids. Step and start demanding better before tragedies like this happen. Reminds me of sports day in extreme heat, practise in thunder and lightening and let's not forget useless club practise every bloody day of the week.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

which is autumn and not very hot.

How hot was it on that day? Japan has had some unusual weather the past 7 years, with some tropical days occurring even in Oct. !

0 ( +0 / -0 )

MsDelicious: What is with 73?

It may be a detailed calculation with numbers like planned occupation, percentage of her lifetime income that would be paid to parents, loss of companionship, cost of emergency medical bills, etc.

The wonder is that in this modern age there is not a flat table of faults and consequences, but cookie cutter justice and law are the bane of a judicial economy based on billing hours, so there it is.

bruinfan: How hot was it on that day? Japan has had some unusual weather the past 7 years, with some tropical days occurring even in Oct. !

https://www.wunderground.com/history/airport/RJTT/2015/10/16/DailyHistory.html

Friday, October 16, 2015 - Haneda Airport

Mean Temperature 18 °C, Max Temperature 19 °C, Min Temperature 16 °C

Moisture - Dew Point 15 °C, Average Humidity 92, Maximum Humidity 100, Minimum Humidity 82

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

In my opinion, the family is correct for attempting to force the school to change its' policies to create a safe environment. Many people are asking why her parents let her participate. Do you have any idea how underlying conditions work? 13KM is much more than recommended exercise in one go for a large student body. Exercise for extended periods of time hinders muscle growth that would have been built up if the distance was shorter and does little positive for the body. After a few KM the exercise becomes "rigorous" whether the students are going at their own pace or not. For example, 13km would potentially harm students who have underlying heart conditions and most do not know unless extensive testing is performed. Extensive as in thorough analysis of the heart via blood tests and a cardio stress test. Source: http://www.onlinejacc.org/content/67/24/2910#ref-1 References #1 and 2.

Regardless, the school is responsible for insuring the safety of students. If they still wanted to continue the 13KM walkathon, it should have been within school grounds where immediate attention is available.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Regardless, the school is responsible for insuring the safety of students. If they still wanted to continue the 13KM walkathon, it should have been within school grounds where immediate attention is available.

A walkathon within the school grounds? That would be a joke.

13km is a pleasant walk that would take about 3 hours at normal walking pace of 4km/h. This should be no difficulty at all for a teenager in mild weather conditions. The average PE lesson will be more threatening.

What we do not know in this case is the student's underlying condition and I am not going to speculate. But if she was walking she probably did not travel more that 5km - a modest stroll. If she was unwell enough for this to amount of exercise to hurt her, she should not have been on the walk.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

For a physically demanding event

That was not demanding, but any big group event should be planned with an emergency kit and/or a process to get an ambulance immediatetely if needed. 20 minutes to get rescue in accessible area is scandalously long.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Many people are asking why her parents let her participate. Do you have any idea how underlying conditions work? Did you read the article? "The suit claims the high school failed to consider the students’ physical condition prior..." If the parents knew she had health issues it is THEIR responsibility to make sure she's safe. Teacher do NOT know the medical conditions of students these days unless parents/student volunteer the info du to privacy laws.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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