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2 men get 1-yr prison for death of mentally disabled man left in car

SAITAMA, Japan (Kyodo) -- Two men were sentenced Tuesday to 12 months in prison each, suspended for three years, for professional negligence resulting in death, after a mentally disabled man died from heatstroke after being left in a welfare facility service vehicle for around six hours in 2017.

The Saitama District Court ruled that Mitsuo Takahashi, 75, a former driver for the facility, had neglected to help the 19-year-old out of the van parked near the welfare facility Cosmos Earth in Ageo, Saitama Prefecture on the morning of July 13, 2017.

Takahashi locked the vehicle and left the man, who was sleeping in the back seat, despite being aware that he could not get out himself. He told police he thought the man had already been taken out of the van.

The court also found welfare facility staff member Shinpei Terashita, 39, guilty of negligence for not contacting the man's guardian to verify his whereabouts, despite knowing he was not at the facility.

In handing down the ruling, Presiding Judge Toshikazu Ishii said it was a grave matter that a precious life was lost due to the two men neglecting their professional duty of care.

"The defendants were well aware that the victim could not judge danger for himself and alight from the vehicle," he said.

The man was found unconscious in the back of the van around 3 p.m. that day with a body temperature of 41.4 C., police and rescue workers had said. He was rushed to hospital but died later.

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