Five-year-old boy dies after becoming trapped inside burning design exhibit

Kyodo

A 5-year-old boy was killed and two men were injured when a fire broke out at an design festival in Tokyo’s Meiji Jingu Gaien area on Sunday, firefighters and police said.

Firefighters received a call around 5:20 p.m. that an exhibit at the site of Tokyo Design Week was in flames, the Tokyo Fire Department said, noting the men’s injuries were not life-threatening.

Police identified the victim as Kento Saeki from Minato Ward, Tokyo.

They added that one of the wounded men who tried to rescue the boy was his father, who was in his 40s.

The police said a wooden jungle gym exhibit caught fire. They suspect that wood shavings, which were part of the installation, may have been ignited by heat from nearby light fittings.

The experiential exhibit, titled “SU no IE,” had been prepared by students at the Nippon Institute of Technology in Saitama Prefecture.

The university and organizers apologized for the fatal fire.

“We have learned that a life has been lost. We are deeply sorry,” said Kiyotaka Kurashima, head of the general affairs department at the university.

The incident frightened some of the visitors, including families enjoying a day out.

A 13-year-old boy from Nerima Ward, Tokyo, saw the installation burst into flames in front of his eyes.

“At first I thought the fire was part of the show,” the boy said. “Then I realized it was a real fire, and ran away. It was scary.”

A 20-year-old arts university student in Kawasaki also fled the fire. “When I looked back the flames were already two or three meters high. It was so hot I couldn’t go near it. I feel so sad thinking about the victim,” he said.

He added that people who were near the exhibit used fire extinguishers to put out the fire in 10 or 15 minutes, but the boy was inside the jungle gym and could not be saved.

After the fire the event venue was barricaded and closed to the public.

The annual design event started Oct. 26 and was scheduled to run until Monday. Organizers cancelled all events for Monday in the wake of the accident.