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Care home chief guilty of fire deaths

Kyodo

The former head of a nursing home in Shibukawa, Gunma Prefecture, was found guilty Friday by the Maebashi District Court over a 2009 blaze that killed 10 residents, on the grounds that he should have foreseen the risk of a fire because he knew the facility’s ban on smoking was being ignored.

The court handed down a two-year prison sentence, suspended for four years, to Goro Takakuwa, 88, the former director of the Tamayura nursing home. It acquitted another defendant, former board member Tomiko Kubo, 76, who was deemed to have been under no obligation to advise Takakuwa on safety measures at the facility, which had no sprinklers or smoke detectors.

Prosecutors argued the nursing home’s management neglected to take necessary fire prevention measures, including holding fire drills and installing smoke detectors. They pointed out that residents were also unable to escape the fire because they were locked up to prevent them from straying outdoors, and only one caretaker was on duty at the time. As a result, one man died near a room where the fire originated and the other nine were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the prosecutors.