Japanese Teacher Pleads Guilty In Tragic Fraser Island Drowning Case

Nearly five years after the drowning incident on K’gari (Fraser Island), Shinri Minatoya has pleaded guilty to charges related to the deaths of two 16-year-old students.

The 61-year-oldJapanese teacher, faced the Hervey Bay Magistrates Court in Queensland.

He was charged with failing in his health and safety duty by exposing students Taiki Mizuno and Shinnosuke Kimura to the risk of death or serious injury during an exchange program visit to Fraser Island in 2019.

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A group of 15 students from Kanagawa University School in Japan travelled to Lake McKenzie, a popular swimming area on K’gari, on March 29, 2019. 

Tragedy struck when Mizuno and Kimura were reported missing later that day. 

Their bodies were found in Lake McKenzie the following day after an extensive air and sea search.

The charges were brought forth by the Workplace Health and Safety Office in 2021. 

During the hearing, Mr Minatoya admitted his guilt and acknowledged his failure to take adequate measures to ensure the students’ safety.

“I consider this my biggest mistake. If I wasn’t (looking after their belongings), I could have been closer to the students,” Mr Minatoya said in court.

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“I wondered how I could have avoided the incident and had many sleepless nights,” he added.

Minatoya’s solicitor, Michael Thomson, argued that his client was not adequately informed about the risks associated with swimming at Lake McKenzie. 

Mr Thomson contended that the responsibility for a risk assessment lay with the Australian-based tour operation company, Huckleberry, subcontracted by Japanese company JTB.

Magistrate Trinity McGarvie, however, asserted that Mr Minatoya had breached his workplace health and safety obligations. 

She argued that as the person entrusted with the students’ safety, Mr Minatoya has the authority to prevent them from swimming or supervise them more closely.

“You broke that trust,” Magistrate McGarvie said.

“You could have told them to only stay in the shallow end, but you didn’t.”

Despite Minatoya’s remorse and Thomson’s defence, Magistrate McGarvie ordered a $55,000 fine and more than $1,500 in court fees. 

No conviction was recorded, but she acknowledged the inadequacy of any penalty to reflect the tremendous grief endured by the victims’ families.

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