Hot springs drowning ruled accidental

Yukon's chief coroner has ruled the February death of a Japanese tourist at the Takhini Hot Springs was an accidental drowning. Chief coroner Kirsten Macdonald released her final report into the incident this week.

Yukon’s chief coroner has ruled the February death of a Japanese tourist at the Takhini Hot Springs was an accidental drowning.

Chief coroner Kirsten Macdonald released her final report into the incident this week.

Kiyoko Nagasaki, 72, was found in the pool early on Feb. 7. A worker pulled her from the water and performed CPR. The ambulance was called, and Nagasaki was taken to hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Nagasaki was fully clothed, wearing a parka over layers of clothing. The wet coat alone weighed nearly five pounds. Her heavy and bulky clothes may have contributed to her death, the coroner’s report says. Nagasaki was healthy, the report says.

Nagasaki was at the hot springs to watch the northern lights with Vancouver-based tour company, Skyland Tours Inc. The group had booked the hot springs from 11:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Group members were asked to choose between either swimming in the pool or looking for the northern lights from the parking lot. All group members that evening decided against using the pool – but Nagasaki and a friend both spoke earlier that evening about wanting to see the water.

Before leaving, someone noticed Nagasaki was missing. A search began, resulting in her discovery in the pool.

The pool area was unlit to aid the viewing of the northern lights. It was dark enough that when Nagasaki’s friend went to look at the pool, she started walking down the pool’s steps until her shoes got wet.

There was a sign in the walkway to the pool that warned no lifeguard was on duty. But with the lights off, this sign couldn’t be seen. The video camera at the pool was also turned off because it was dark, so it wouldn’t have captured anything, said owner Garry Umbrich.

The coroner’s report recommends the hot springs keep its video camera on at all times, and keep lights on when people are in the pool. The company intends to follow these rules, said Umbrich.

In January, the facility stopped allowing kids in the pool after dark. The pool started opening two hours earlier so families could spend more time in the pool while it’s light.

And within three days of Nagasaki’s death, they had a new policy in place with tour companies, said Umbrich. This policy asks tour groups how they want to use the facility. Groups must decide if they will spend time in the pool, with the lights on, or in the parking lot, with the lights off.

If groups decide to spend time in the parking lot, they cannot go into the pool at all. No one can be in the pool area when the lights are off, said Umbrich.

The report also recommends that warning signs be posted in well-lighted locations. The signs should use pictures, if possible, so readers who don’t speak English can understand them. These signs won’t be put up until the hot springs can meet with the Health Department to see what kind of signs it wants, said Umbrich.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at

mgillmore@yukon-news.com

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