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6-year-old boy dies from heatstroke after field study

Naoki Suzuki, left, head of the school education division at the Toyota Municipal Board of Education, and Takashi Yabushita, principal of the municipal Umetsubo Elementary School, meet reporters at the Toyoda Municipal Government office on July 17, 2018. (Mainichi)

TOYOTA, Aichi -- A first-year elementary school boy here died of heatstroke after falling unconscious upon returning from a field study at a nearby park on July 17, the Toyoda Municipal Board of Education has announced.

"We deserve criticism that our judgment (to take students out on a field study amid high temperatures) was wrong," Takashi Yabushita, principal of the municipal Umetsubo Elementary School in Toyoda, Aichi Prefecture, said as he offered an apology over the incident at a press conference on July 17.

The maximum temperature in the city reached 37.3 degrees Celsius on the day, with temperatures hovering around 33 degrees between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., according to the Nagoya Local Meteorological Observatory.

According to Yabushita and officials of the municipal board of education, the school took 112 children from four classes in the first grade to Wago Park about 1 kilometer away from the school at around 9:50 a.m. on July 17. After collecting insects and engaging in other activities, the children returned to school at around 11:30 a.m.

However, the 6-year-old boy fell unconscious in a classroom at around 11:50 a.m., and although he was rushed to a hospital in the city 20 minutes later, he died that afternoon. The school quoted the parents of the boy as saying that the boy was diagnosed as having died from heatstroke.

The boy didn't have any particular health issues before the incident. On the day of the field trip, he was lagging behind other students on their way to and from the park, and complained of fatigue after returning to school. His homeroom teacher took him to a well-ventilated space in the classroom, but his health rapidly deteriorated, with the color of his lips turning pale.

Three other girls also complained of sickness after the field trip, but the officials said their conditions were not life-threatening.

"We paid careful attention to prevent students from suffering heatstroke, urging them to drink water," the principal said.

(Japanese original by Sachio Nakajima, Toyoda Local Bureau)

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