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1 dead after hand sanitizer-fueled BBQ fire spreads to students' clothes in west Japan

Fukuoka Prefectural Police headquarters are pictured in the city of Fukuoka's Hakata Ward. (Mainichi/Michiko Morizono)

YANAGAWA, Fukuoka -- A beauty school student died on June 6 and three others suffered burns after their clothes caught fire when a teacher added hand sanitizer to a barbecue during an event on campus, school officials have disclosed.

    The incident occurred at the Hollywood World Beauty College in Yanagawa in Fukuoka Prefecture on May 24. It is suspected that the alcohol-based sanitizer caused the barbecue fire to flare violently, and police are investigating the incident on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in death and injury.

    According to the school, the barbecue was held from about 12:45 p.m. as a social event open to all 470 students at the college. Teachers and staff were in charge of maintaining the grills, and fire starters were reportedly soaked with alcohol-based hand sanitizer to cook the food quickly and reduce the chance of participants succumbing to heatstroke.

    About 10 minutes after the start of the event, the fire in one barbecue grill was weak so a male teacher added alcohol to it. The fire's intensity increased suddenly, and the flames spread to four male first-year students standing nearby, setting their clothes on fire. The four -- three aged in their teens and one in his 20s -- suffered burns and were taken to the hospital by ambulance. One of them, an 18-year-old student, died on June 6. The injuries suffered by the remaining three students were reportedly not life-threatening.

    School head Fumi Koga commented, "We are thinking greatly about the cost of life. It is not something we can simply apologize for."

    (Japanese original by Hideho Furihata, Omuta Local Bureau)

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