• Kyodo

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A former manager of a hot spring resort was handed a suspended sentence Tuesday for negligence resulting in a 2002 outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that killed six people and sickened 25 others.

Kuniharu Kimura, 64, who was manager of the Hyuga Sun-Park Onsen spa in Hyuga, Miyazaki Prefecture, was found guilty by the Miyazaki District Court of professional negligence resulting in death and injury by not ensuring the facility was properly disinfected. He was sentenced to three years in prison, suspended for five years.

Prosecutors had demanded a three-year term in the nation’s first criminal trial over Legionnaires’ disease.

Kimura opened the spa July 1, 2002, without sterilizing the pipes properly, and neglected to instruct employees to clean the facility correctly, causing numerous people who bathed there through July 18 that year to become infected.

The spa halted operations July 24 that year following reports of the outbreak. About 20,000 people had used the facility during the period in question.

Altogether, 295 people were either infected or thought likely to have been infected, and seven of them died, according to a study by the Miyazaki Prefectural Government.

The prosecutors omitted one of the dead from the case as a causal relationship between the disease and death could not be established.

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia caused by a bacterium found primarily in warm water environments.

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