WOONSOCKET – For an 18-month-old boy crushed under a piece of fallen furniture, death came in the blink of an eye Monday.
The boy’s grandmother told police she had been watching the boy up until the very moment the bookcase tipped over and fell on him.
“She turned her back for a second to move something in a doorway that leads to the basement,” reported Patrolman Patrick Roy. “She turned around and saw the wooden bookcase was now on top of the boy’s chest.”
Police responded to a 911 call placed from 113 Parker St. about 1:30 p.m. and found the boy, limp and unresponsive, lying in a relative’s lap. He was later pronounced dead at Landmark Medical Center.
Police say the boy’s death was the result of an accident – a kind of accident that’s not all that uncommon.
“On average, one child dies every 2 weeks when a TV, piece of furniture or an appliance falls on him, based on reports received by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission between 2000 and 2010,” the federal watchdog agency said in a recent report.
Over 80 percent of the fatalities observed during that period, or 245 deaths, involved children under eight years old and they were typically caused by children attempting to climb the furniture.
Like the incident in Woonsocket, many of these cases involve furniture with drawers that children can use like the rungs of a ladder. Though police have described the item as a bookcase, a police report says it was a five-drawer bureau with two shelves on top of it. A police officer who picked it up during the investigation described it as “relatively heavy.”
The incident also seems to fit the CPSC profile of the most common furniture tip-over fatalities because the grandmother told police she thought the boy had been trying to climb the furniture when it fell.
“It happens all the time,” said Detective Jamie Paone, a spokeswoman for the police. “That’s all it takes is that one second when the child is climbing, reaching for a toy or a drink or whatever.
To prevent such mishaps, the CPSC recommends keeping shelves clear of toys, remote controls and other things children might like to play with. Anchor furniture that’s a tip-over risk to the walls or the floor and select shelves with low, sturdy bases.
The Parker Street accident actually did not happen inside the house, but under a portico in the yard, according to Paone. Some furniture from a bedroom at the residence had been moved outside, under the portico.
Paone said neither the boy nor his mother lived at the Parker Street residence. She said the child’s mother was not on the premises at the time, but had left him and a sibling with their grandmother. Another adult and two other juveniles were also in the two-family residence at the time.
Paone said child welfare authorities were notified of the accident, a procedure she described as routine in such cases.