Boy, 10, killed on world’s tallest waterslide suffered fatal neck injury: officials

JIM SUHR, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS  

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas waterslide billed as the world’s tallest remained off-limits Monday as authorities pressed to figure out how a state lawmaker’s 10-year-old son died of a neck injury while riding it.

Details remained murky about what happened Sunday to Caleb Thomas Schwab on the 168-foot-tall “Verruckt” – German for “insane” – that since its debut two years ago has been the top draw at Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City, Kansas.

Kansas City, Kansas, police issued a statement late Monday afternoon saying that Caleb suffered a fatal neck injury around 2:30 p.m. while he was riding the slide with two women, neither of whom was related to him. They suffered minor facial injuries and were treated at an area hospital, police said.

Emergency responders arrived to find the boy dead in a pool at the end of the ride, according to the statement, which offered no further details.

In a statement Monday afternoon, Schlitterbahn said it was “deeply and intensely saddened for the Schwab family and all who were impacted by the tragic accident.” The park was tentatively scheduled to reopen Wednesday, but “Verruckt is closed,” according to the statement.

Officer Cameron Morgan, a police spokesman, said no police report about the incident was available. He said investigators were treating Caleb’s death as a “civil matter” rather than a criminal one and referred additional questions to the park.

Schlitterbahn spokeswoman Winter Prosapio declined interview requests Monday but told reporters a day earlier that Caleb had been at the park with family members, adding that “we honestly don’t know what’s happened.”

It wasn’t immediately clear whether results of an autopsy Monday on Caleb would be publicly released or, if so, how soon, said Margaret Studyvin with the Wyandotte County coroner’s office.

Leslie Castaneda, who was at Schlitterbahn on Sunday, told The Kansas City Star that she saw Caleb’s crumpled shorts or bathing suit at the bottom of the ride, along with blood on the slide’s white descending flume.

“I’m really having a tough time with it. I really am,” said Castaneda, of Kansas City, Kansas. “I saw his (Caleb’s) brother. He was screaming.”

On the waterslide certified by Guinness World Records as the world’s tallest, riders sit in multi-person rafts during “the ultimate in water slide thrills,” subjecting “adventure seekers” to a “jaw dropping” 17-story drop, the park’s website says. Passengers then are “blasted back up a second massive hill and then sent down yet another gut wrenching 50 foot drop,” the website adds.

Each rider must be at least 54 inches tall, and the group’s weight is limited to a total of 400 to 550 pounds. Authorities didn’t release information about Caleb’s height or the combined weight of his group of riders.

According to rules sent to the media in 2014, riders had to be at least 14 years old, but that requirement is no longer listed on the park’s website.

Caleb’s parents – Republican state Rep. Scott Schwab and his wife, Michele – have requested privacy as the family grieves, saying in a statement Sunday that “since the day he was born, (Caleb) brought abundant joy to our family and all those he came in contact with.”

“As we try to mend our home with him no longer with us, we are comforted knowing he believed in our Savior Jesus, and they are forever together now. We will see him another day,” the statement added.

The tragedy happened on a day the park offered lawmakers and other elected officials a buffet lunch, hot dogs and hamburgers.

Verruckt’s 2014 opening repeatedly was delayed, though the operators didn’t explain why. Two media sneak preview days in 2014 were canceled because of problems with a conveyor system that hauls 100-pound rafts to the top of the slide.

I saw his brother. He was screaming.

In a news article linked to the news release announcing a 2014 delay, Schlitterbahn co-owner Jeff Henry told USA Today that he and senior designer John Schooley had based their calculations when designing the slide on roller coasters, but that didn’t translate well to a waterslide like Verruckt.

In early tests, rafts carrying sandbags flew off the slide, prompting engineers to tear down half of the ride and reconfigure some angles at a cost of $1 million, Henry said.

A promotional video about building the slide includes footage of two men riding a raft down a half-size test model and going slightly airborne as it crests the top of the first big hill.

The Unified Government of Kansas City, Kansas, and Wyandotte County said it does not inspect the operations of such rides and is responsible only for ensuring they’ve adhered to local building codes.

Without specifically mentioning waterslides, Kansas statutes define an “amusement ride” as any mechanical or electrical conveyance “for the purpose of giving its passengers amusement, pleasure, thrills or excitement.” Such rides, by statute, commonly are Ferris wheels, carousels, parachute towers, bungee jumps and roller coasters.

State law leaves it to the Kansas Department of Labor to adopt rules and regulations relating to certification and inspection of rides, adding that a permanent amusement ride must be scrutinized by “a qualified inspector” at least every 12 months. Kansas’ Labor Department didn’t return messages Monday.

Prosapio said Sunday the park’s rides are inspected daily and by an “outside party” before the start of each season.

Kansas state Sen. Greg Smith, an Overland Park Republican, said that although state law doesn’t specifically address waterslides, it’s clear they “would fall into that category.” He called any potential legislative response to Sunday’s tragedy premature, saying the investigation should be given time to play out.

Bride asks her dad’s heart recipient to walk her down the aisle

By LINDSEY BEVER, WASHINGTON POST

The day before her wedding, Jeni Stepien said she met the man who would walk her down the aisle – the man who had received her father’s heart.

When Arthur “Tom” Thomas arrived Friday at the church just outside Pittsburgh, he took Stepien’s fingers and put them on his wrist.

“He said, ‘Here, feel my pulse,’ ” Stepien told The Washington Post. “It was so amazing. I could feel his heartbeat — it was so strong.”

The next day, Thomas gave Stepien his arm and led her to the church altar, where she touched his chest right before he gave her away.

Stepien, 33, said her new husband, 34-year-old Paul Maenner, first suggested that Thomas stand in for her father. “I thought he would be the perfect person because he has a piece of my father living within him,” she said.

So she penned a letter to a man in Lawrenceville, N.J. — one she and her family had spoken to over the past 10 years but had never met.

“She said, ‘Is there any chance you’d consider walking me down the aisle?’ ” Thomas told The Post. “I said, ‘Oh, there’s a big chance.’ ”

Thomas said the early notice gave him time to prepare himself so he wouldn’t be “blubbering” as he walked her through the church.

“The last 10 years, I watched my children graduate from high school and college and I’m probably going to be able to see them get married,” he said. “And that same 10 years, Michael’s family went without him.

“I had a life to live because of him, and his family did not. It was important for me to do this very small thing for her.”

Stepien said her father, Michael Stepien, was on his way home from work one night in 2006 when he was shot and killed by a teenager during an attempted robbery in Swissvale, a borough outside Pittsburgh.

Thomas, 72, told CBS affiliate KDKA he was “on death’s door” when he received Michael’s heart. He said his own had been failing for years and, by 2006, he was suffering from congestive heart failure.

The last day in September, he said, Stepien’s family gave him a gift.

“I remember telling them how grateful I was for this new lease on life and that I realized the sacrifice they made was extraordinary,” Thomas said of his first letter to the Stepiens.

Since then, Thomas, who is married with four grown children, said the two families have exchanged many handwritten letters and phone calls. Every holiday, he sends Michael’s wife fresh flowers.

On Saturday, Jeni Stepien said, when the door to St. Anselm church in Swissvale swung open, she felt “my dad was right there with us.”

“This wasn’t just about me,” she told The Post from the airport Monday morning, moments before the couple headed out for their honeymoon. “It was also about making my mom and my sister and Tom see everything had come full circle.”

And when it came time for the first dance, Thomas once again took her hand.

“He did my father-daughter dance with me and then handed me to my mom,” she said, adding that he “made this dream come true.”

She wrote on Facebook: “It truly was the best day of MY ENTIRE LIFE!”

“To be able to bring my dad home and have him at my wedding was an absolute dream COME TRUE!” she wrote. “Not to mention that being married to the best person that was hand picked just for me was beyond words the best thing that has ever happened to me.”

In 2014, more than 29,500 people received organ transplants in the United States and an average of 22 people a day died waiting for them, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

More than 120 million people are registered as organ donors.

Stepien wrote on Facebook that she hopes her family’s story will inspire others. “If I helped just one person change their mind to become an organ donor, my wish in sharing my story has come true,” she said.

Thomas said he hopes that the gift he received from Stepien and her family will impact others as much as it has impacted him.

“This young woman had such wonderful motivations – to say to the world, ‘Organ donation is really important. We want you to be aware of it.’ ”

Canada seized nearly $11.5M from Chinese travellers last year — more than double the 2013 amount

Ethan Lou, Reuters

Canada has been seizing increasing amounts of undeclared or suspected criminal money from mainland Chinese travellers, border officials said, with the amount confiscated last year more than double that taken in 2013.

Capital flight in various forms has been a growing concern for China, with factors ranging from the depreciation of the yuan to an anti-corruption campaign launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the end of 2012.

Reuters obtained limited seizure figures from the Canada Border Services Agency under the country’s access-to-information laws. The agency provided more comprehensive numbers in July.

The data showed seizures from Chinese citizens dipped by about one-quarter from 2012 to 2013, when they were at $5.5 million. Seizures jumped to nearly $11.5 million last year.

At least $6.5 million has been seized so far in 2016. By year end, that figure fcould eclipse 2015 levels, as the data consistently showed more seizures in the second half.

According to the agency, suspected criminal proceeds and undeclared money over $10,000 could be seized. The former is forfeit, while the latter can be returned on payment of a $250-to-$5,000 fine.

The agency’s numbers did not separate the two and did not indicate the exact origins of the seized money.

Canadian border service spokeswoman Esme Bailey said it is not unusual for the amounts seized to vary from year to year, and the agency does not base enforcement on nationality.

A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Canada, Yang Yundong, said his government always urges citizens to “learn in detail and comply with” Canadian law. He said China’s own law enforcement does not tolerate illegally carrying money abroad.

China said last year more than one-quarter of its 100 most-wanted corruption suspects had fled to Canada.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police declined to comment on the number of Chinese corruption suspects in the country. Canada’s Department of Justice said it does not track those numbers.

In the United States, penalties for not declaring currency over $10,000 can include a fine of up to $500,000 and up to 10 years in prison.

The value of U.S. seizures from Chinese citizens arriving by air, while roughly on par with Canada, consistently accounts for under 10 percent of the total, the U.S. border agency said.

Such seizures from Canada’s three largest airports alone make up more than one-quarter, according to the country’s data.

Mom facing ‘honour killing’ charge released

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

Honour killing victim Jassi Sidhu’s mother has been granted bail by the B.C. Court of Appeal as she awaits the results of a court case that would determine whether she’s extradited to India to face murder charges.

Jassi — Malkit Kaur Sidhu’s daughter — was killed in June 2000 as she travelled with her new husband in the Indian state of Punjab. A group attacked the couple, taking Jassi away in a car.

Her body was found the next day in a nearby village. The case has since been named an honour killing — Sidhu had come from a relatively well-off family, while her husband was a poor rickshaw driver.

Her family, the court had heard, did not approve of the marriage.

The older Sidhu, 67, and Jassi’s uncle, Surjit Singh Badesha, now face charges in India related to her murder and the attack on her husband, who escaped that day with severe injuries. Seven others have already been convicted.

Sidhu had previously been ordered to be extradited by the federal government, but the B.C. court found India’s assurances that Sidhu would be safe in an Indian prison “unreasonable in light of the evidence of the prevalence of custodial torture and abuse of prisoners, especially female prisoners.”

The case was accepted for judicial review in February this year. So far, Sidhu has spent four and a half years in jail — her last bail application, made jointly with Badesha, was rejected in 2012.

“Although Ms. Sidhu faces prosecution for one of the most abhorrent of crimes, the public interest favours her release: she has been in custody for 4.5 years and has yet to be tried or convicted of any crime; she is 67 years old with deteriorating health … bail (is) granted on strict terms including house arrest,” wrote Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon in her decision.

The court also noted that Badesha may have influenced Sidhu’s actions, due to her gender, and that evidence in the case is stronger against the uncle, who remains in custody.

 

Indian man charged with sexually touching sleeping Virgin America passenger

NEWARK, N.J. – An airline passenger was charged with sexually touching a sleeping woman who did not know him aboard a flight from Los Angeles International Airport to Newark Liberty International Airport, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced today.

Veerabhadrarao Kunam, 58, of Visakhapatnam, India, is charged by complaint with one count of abusive sexual contact. He appeared yesterday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph A. Dickson in Newark federal court and was released on $50,000 secured bond.

Kunam was arrested on July 30, 2016 – the day his flight arrived in Newark – and was taken into federal custody by the FBI.

According to the complaint: Kunam was seated next to a woman who occupied a middle seat on a Virgin America redeye flight from Los Angeles to Newark. While the plane was in the air, the woman fell asleep. She awoke to find Kunam massaging her genitals and rubbing his bare feet against her bare feet.

Upon noticing Kunam touching her, the victim alerted her male travel companion who traded seats with the victim and confronted Kunam. Kunam allegedly told the victim’s travel companion that he wanted everyone to forget about the incident and offered to buy the travel companion a drink for any trouble he may have caused. The travel companion declined Kunam’s offer and alerted a flight crew member about what had occurred.

A member of the flight crew then moved Kunam to another seat and instructed him not to return to his original seat. Kunam allegedly told the flight crew member that he would not touch the victim again.

The federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over all sexual abuse cases that occur on aircraft in flight in the United States.

The abusive sexual contact charge carries a maximum potential penalty of two years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher, and the Port Authority Police Department, under the direction of Superintendent Michael A. Fedorko, with the investigation leading to the charge.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Francisco J. Navarro of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.

The charge and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Defense counsel: Alexander Spiro Esq., New York

Walmart employees charged with fatally crushing suspected shoplifter

It was the middle of the night on Feb. 7, at a Florida Walmart Supercenter, when Kenneth E. Wisham, 64, allegedly decided to steal $380.74 worth of DVDs.

Pushing a shopping cart stacked high with them, Wisham tried to leave the store without employees noticing, but when they did — and then confronted him — the man ran, police said, tugging at his falling pants along the way.

At some point Wisham fell, the initial police report says, and three Walmart employees detained him.

Twelve hours later, Wisham was dead.

Reports from police at the time hinted at a medical mystery that had overtaken the 64-year-old man, who stopped breathing while he was being detained. Wisham never regained consciousness, despite life-saving efforts at Walmart and the hospital, and was pronounced dead later that afternoon.

Two days later, the Polk County Medical Examiner’s Office performed an autopsy.

The cause of death, officials determined, was mechanical asphyxia by restraint, meaning his airwaves were suppressed during a struggle.

Wisham also had 15 broken ribs.

Nearly seven months after the man died, Lakeland police issued arrest warrants for three people last week, all employees of Walmart. They face one charge each of manslaughter. The two men and one woman — Nathan Higgins, 35; Randall Tomko, 58; and Crucelis Nunez, 23 — were taken into custody on Friday.

A Walmart spokesman told the Lakeland Ledger that the company is conducting its own investigation, and the employment status of the three individuals involved is under review.

“Our hearts go out to everyone affected by these events,” spokesman Charles Crowson told the Lakeland Ledger. “The status of the associates involved continues to be reviewed. We’ll continue working with law enforcement officials, as we have from the beginning, while conducting our own review.”

Information in the employees’ criminal arrest affidavits reveals details not initially released in early reports, including that witnesses saw one employee punch the man multiple times with a closed fist and with the help of the other two, forcibly pin him down on the ground.

At one point, Nunez said Wisham shouted “I can’t breathe!” before falling slack.

The pursuit started when Nunez, a customer service manager, heard the store’s security alarm activate and saw another store employee confront Wisham, she told police. When he ran, she ran, too, chasing him through the parking lot and in the direction of a retention pond south of the store. It appeared Wisham was about to fall, Nunez told police, and when she “nudged” him he toppled. According to her arrest affidavit, Nunez told police she held Wisham down by placing pressure on his mid back while Tomko placed pressure near his head and Higgins secured the man’s feet.

Wisham yelled for the three to let him go, Nunez said, and then added that he couldn’t breathe.

What was missing from Nunez’s account, according to reports, was what witness Rebecca Baggett told police she saw happen that night: a woman jump on the back of a man, knock him to the ground, then punch him multiple times.

The man, later identified as Wisham, was holding his hands over his head, Baggett told police.

And that version differs from Tomko’s retelling, who amended his story in the hours after the attempted theft during a police interview. Tomko, an asset protection officer, said he chased after Wisham alongside his female colleague. Tomko said Nunez caught up to Wisham first, according to the affidavit, and Wisham began to fight with the woman. At first, Tomko said he when he approached the two and identified himself as security, Wisham started “swinging at him.”

“The defendant later changed his account of the incident and stated that when he approached Nunez and the victim, both of them were already on the ground,” the affidavit said.

Fearing Wisham had a gun, Tomko told police he grabbed the man’s arms to prevent him from reaching his pockets. They pinned him face down, Tomko said, and he laid atop Wisham at an angle for at least 10 minutes until Lakeland police arrived on scene.

Wisham’s colleagues and witnesses told police he held the Wisham’s upper back and neck while the man was face down. Baggett, the witness, said she saw Tomko put a knee in Wisham’s back.

The third Walmart employee charged with manslaughter, Nathan Higgins, was sitting in his truck in the store parking lot, taking a break from his graveyard shift as a support manager to eat his lunch and watch a video, when the attempted theft occurred. On his way back inside Higgins ran into his assistant manager, who asked him to help his colleagues detain Wisham.

He grabbed the back of the man’s ankles, Higgins told police, and pressed them toward the ground for about a minute before releasing when Wisham shouted for them to let go. The assistant manager, Erica Emerling, told police Higgins pushed Wisham’s ankles toward the man’s back at a bent angle.

By all accounts, Wisham struggled for several minutes, then stopped.

Higgins’ bail was set far lower than Tomko and Nunez, reported the Lakeland Ledger, and his lawyer, James “Rusty” Franklin, said in an interview with the newspaper that his client played a minor role in the incident.

“He (Higgins) was commanded by his supervisor to go intervene,” Franklin told the newspaper. “All he did was grab the guy’s ankles. It’s a tragedy, no question about it.”

SFU becomes first Canadian research university to be accredited in U.S.

BY NICK EAGLAND

Simon Fraser University just became the first Canadian research university with U.S. accreditation.

The announcement came Tuesday that SFU had in recent weeks been granted accreditation by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), which is based in Washington state. The NWCCU is an independent, non-profit agency, recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, which oversees accreditation for 162 higher-education institutions.

According to SFU, the benefits of accreditation include increasing accountability through external assessments, setting clear benchmarks for assessing educational goals and students’ learning experiences, enhancing the value of an SFU degree, building relationships with U.S. institutions and fostering public confidence.

“It’s more of a question of reassuring international partners and potential international students and international alumni that you meet a widely known and accepted standard of quality assurance,” said Dr. Jonathan Driver, provost and vice-president academic at SFU. “It also will be very useful for any of our students who want to work abroad.”

SFU’s accreditation application process began in 2009 and the university underwent a stringent peer-review process in the years that followed. The university will be subject to large-scale reviews every seven years while smaller reviews of SFU’s operations will be conducted more regularly, with a one-year evaluation slated for next spring.

“Every aspect of the governance and management of the university is examined in this, so it is an institutional quality-assurance process that we are involved in,” Driver said. “This is a fairly rigorous process and we feel that given the trust that is placed in us by taxpayers and students … that we owe it to them to have a rigorous process in place that will encourage us to do better and better.”

Accreditation also allows SFU athletics to participate in the NCAA.

Driver said it was gratifying to see the accreditation process through while the university stood up to intense scrutiny by the NWCCU. It came together just in time for him to wrap-up his eight-year term as VP academic before he takes a position as a professor of archeology at the end of the summer.

In 2013, Capilano University became the first Canadian university to be accredited by the NWCCU. Canada is the only developed country without a national accreditation system for post-secondary schools.

Paralyzed Two-Year-Old Receives Gift of Hope

BCHF, BC Paraplegic Foundation and Fantasy Food 2000 Donate $10K to Julia Grassmick

By Sujinder Juneja

Two-year-old Julia Grassmick, recently paralyzed from the waist down, is the recipient of a $10,000 grant, with $5,000 donated from the BC Hospitality Foundation and $5,000 from the BC Paraplegic Foundation and Fantasy Food 2000. This grant is the fourth such partnership between the charities since 2008.

On October 15, 2015, Julia Grassmick’s parents discovered their two-year-old daughter in her bed, unable to move. After four days of investigation, doctors in Kelowna discovered a massive hematoma (blood clot) which had compressed her spinal cord. Julia was rushed to BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver for surgery on October 19, but the damage to Julia’s spine had already been done, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down.

Following months of treatment and research, this grant will be used for Julia to attend a program at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, a facility in Baltimore which aims to help children with spinal cord injuries recover to their fullest potential.

Julia’s mother, Melissa, is the former senior conference manager at the Delta Hotels Grand Okanagan Resort in Kelowna, who left a full-time position to care for her daughter. She shares, “My husband and I are so grateful for the financial assistance that the BCHF and the BC Paraplegic Foundation have been able to offer us. We are so happy to be able to take Julia to Kennedy Krieger in September to get the therapy program she needs. Thank you ever so much for your incredible support!”

In 2000, a fundraiser called Fantasy Food 2000 was held to benefit a hospitality industry worker who suffered from a spinal cord injury. Since then, additional funds raised were held in trust with Spinal Cord Injury BCand the BC Paraplegic Foundation, earmarked to be given to hospitality workers at a time of financial need. The original Fantasy Food 2000 funds have now assisted four BCHF beneficiaries, including Michael Willingham (2008), Matthew Loring (2011), Shannon Elmer (2015), and now Julia Grassmick.

Melissa Julia Ryan Grassmick
Melissa, Julia and Ryan Grassmick are the latest beneficiaries of the BCHF and the BC Paraplegic Foundation.

Five farm workers injured in Delta crash

By GLEN SCHAEFER

Delta police are investigating after five farm workers were injured when the van they were riding in was involved in a crash with a passenger car at Nordel Way and Brooke Road.

The workers suffered minor injuries in the crash, and the van operated by farm labour contractor BKS Enterprises had enough seatbelts for its passengers, a police spokesman said.

“They are licensed and registered,” Delta police Const. Leisa Schaefer sad Tuesday.

Police and paramedics were called to the crash site just after 8 p.m. on Monday. The workers were heading home after work.

The van was to be inspected as part of the crash investigation, Schaefer said.

WorkSafe B.C. released four inspection reports done on the company’s vehicles in the past year, indicating that the firm had complied with that agency’s orders. Roadside checks are done in partnership with police, as WorkSafe B.C. doesn’t have the authority to pull vehicles over, a spokesman said.

B.C. Federation of Labour president Irene Lanzinger said farm-worker safety remains a concern nine years after three women died in the Abbotsford crash of a van that was found to be unsafe.

“We don’t know all the details about (the Delta accident), but inspections aren’t happening at the rate they should be happening,” Lanzinger said.

She reiterated the federation’s call for mandatory independent annual inspections of worker transport vehicles, adding that after the 2007 Abbotsford fatalities a blitz of inspections led to 35 per cent of those vehicles being taken off the road because they didn’t meet safety standards.

The Vancouver Sun

Working in a modern office a death sentence on par with smoking, European study warns

LAURA DONNELLY, THE TELEGRAPH  

LONDON — Office workers must exercise for an hour a day to combat the “deadly” risk of modern working life, a major study has found.

Sitting for at least eight hours a day could increase the risk of premature death by up to 60 per cent, the study of more than 1 million adults published in The Lancet found, with sedentary lifestyles now posing as great a threat to public health as smoking and causing more deaths than obesity.

Workers who spend several hours each day at their desk should change their routine to include a five-minute break every hour, as well as take exercise at lunchtimes and evenings, the study recommended.

An hour of brisk walking or cycling spread over a day was enough to combat the dangers of eight hours sitting in the office, the researchers said.

Current public health advice recommends just half this level of activity – yet almost half of women and one third of men fail to achieve even this.

Professor Ulf Ekelund, the lead scientist, from Cambridge University and the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, said: “We found that at least one hour of physical activity per day, for example brisk walking or cycling, eliminates the association between sitting time and death.”

He added: “You don’t need to do sport, you don’t need to go to the gym, it’s OK doing some brisk walking maybe in the morning, during your lunchtime, after dinner in the evening. You can split it up over the day but you need to do at least one hour.”

Researchers said the typical modern routine of spending a day in front of a computer, followed by an evening slumped in front of the television was proving fatal.

They called for radical changes in government policies to encourage healthier habits. These include placing bus stops farther apart to force people to walk for longer, closing streets to cars on weekends to encourage more sports and exercise, and opening free public gyms in parks.

Many office workers, especially commuters, would find it hard to avoid long periods of being seated but should make every effort to break up their day, with short walks, the scientists said.

“Take a five-minute break every hour, go to the next office, go upstairs to the coffee machine, go to the printer,” said Prof. Ekelund.

“Build physical activity in your everyday life.”

Pedro Hallal, a fellow researcher, from the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, said: “The combination of sitting too much all day, and too little activity is deadly.”

The studies could not pinpoint why long periods of sitting were specifically risky, but the scientists involved said that movement appeared to assist the body’s metabolism, while sedentary periods could influence hormones such as leptin, which regulate energy balance.

In the study, participants, mostly older than 45, were classed by their levels of physical activity, from up to five minutes a day to more than an hour and by the amount of time spent seated.

This was compared with death rates over a period of up to 18 years among the adults, who came from western Europe, Australia and the United States.

This report is showing that inactivity kills

Among those who sat for at least eight hours a day and managed less than five minutes’ activity, mortality rates were 9.9 per cent.

For those who spent just as long seated, but managed at least an hour’s exercise, death rates dropped to 6.2 per cent. Cancer and heart disease were the two most likely causes of death linked to inactivity.

When the scientists looked at the television viewing habits of a subgroup of about 500,000 people, they found that watching for more than three hours a day was associated with an increased risk of death in all groups except those who took at least an hour’s exercise.

Researchers said that globally, more than 5 million deaths a year are linked to physical inactivity – a similar number to lives lost to smoking, and a higher figure than that caused by obesity.

Steven Ward, executive editor of UK Active, said: “This report is showing that inactivity kills. When we realized this about smoking we tackled it – we need to do the same about our office culture.”

Polls of office workers have found that only one in five leave their workplace at lunchtime, while just 3 per cent use the time to visit the gym.