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YAMAGUCHI (Kyodo) The carbon monoxide that killed a 26-year-old man and injured school kids, teachers and others at a hotel in Yamaguchi Prefecture may have been caused by a leaky boiler chimney in the basement, investigative sources said Wednesday.

Photographer Hiroaki Kawazoe, 26, died of carbon monoxide poisoning at the Yamaguchi Shuhou Plaza Hotel. He was covering a field trip for an elementary school from Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture.

Other people sickened by the gas, including several children, were taken to area hospitals.

Police said an on-the-spot inspection discovered that a crack in the boiler chimney was causing smoke to leak. They suspect the crack caused incomplete combustion in the boiler, causing the lethal gas to flood from the crack and travel throughout the hotel.

Some of the injured were found to have a carbon monoxide density of 30 percent in their blood, which is 30 times normal, according to a doctor who treated them.

A nurse was found unconscious on the third floor just above the boiler’s location. Kawazoe was in the next room.

A schoolteacher who rushed to help them temporarily lost consciousness, while several others collapsed, police said.

Two hotel employees and eight firefighters who responded to the emergency were also among those who fell sick.

About 80 people associated with the school trip from the elementary school were staying at the hotel.

To test the flow of the chimney, police said it was filled with smoke, which traveled through the chimney into a carbon monoxide exhaust pipe and to the second and third floors and outside. But it also flowed into the section between the second-floor ceiling and the floor of the third floor, as well as under the roof of the third floor but not to the first floor.

According to the fire department, the domestically made boiler was registered in April 2000. A regular checkup last year did not turn up any faults.

Around the time people began getting sick at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, children were about to cook meat by using charcoal stoves on the hotel’s first floor, according to the police.

“He was a very quiet, serious child,” Kawazoe’s father Katsunori told reporters Wednesday night. “He liked to take pictures and he was so happy he got the job.”

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