A family in Orlando, Florida, is left devastated after their three-year-old toddler died in a front-loading washing machine. The boy, who has not been named, was playing with his brother in the laundry room at their house when he somehow got inside the washing machine. By the time he was found, it was too late.
“At some point in the process, the door closed. Either he pulled it shut himself, or maybe the sibling closed it,” Cory Burkarth of the Orlando Police Department said. “That’s something we’re still looking at. And also, when that door closed, did it create an air-tight seal and deprive the child of oxygen?”
The toddler was taken to Arnold Palmer hospital and was pronounced dead upon arrival. Currently, police are investigating the toddler's death, but believe that it was an accident. They are not releasing the brand of washing machine.
Now, police are urging parents to be extremely careful about their appliances and the access kids have to them.
"If you have your laundry room as its own separate room with a door and handle, put a child-proof handle on it, a child-proof lock," Burkarth said.
Another important prevention technique is talking with kids about the dangers of washers, dryers, and all other major appliances.
“We also ask that parents speak with their children and teach them that washers, dryers and other appliances are not toys and should not be played with,” Burkarth said. “This message also applies to adults, friends and family members who may have children visit their house, babysitters, et cetera.”
Burkath points out that washers and dryers look a lot more appealing now than they did even 10 years ago.
“When I was a kid, washers and dryers were white and they didn’t look cool. But today, washing machines come in multiple colors like red, blue, black, stainless steel and they have buttons that light up, make cool sounds, and have clear see-through windows,” Burkarth said. “So to a young child, they look like a fun piece of equipment and often will want to play on or in them.”
Jeff Jaskot, of Orlando’s Aggressive Appliances, says this case is particularly hard for him.
"It's awful. With a 16-month-old at home, it just hit particularly close to home," said Jaskot.
He also suggests that parents lock the doors of their appliances if possible, or at the very least lock the control pad so that buttons can't be pushd.
“What that does is, even if the machine is open and a child were… a pet, anything… were to crawl inside, that’s something that will keep any of the other buttons from being activated,” he said.
According to Consumer Reports, more than 2,000 kids are seriously injured each year after "after reaching, climbing, or falling into washers and dryers or toppling down from them. The now-popular frontloading washers can be particularly dangerous because the controls are often located on the front panel, within easy reach of a young child, and the doors lock when the machine is started."
I cannot imagine the pain this family is feeling, and I hope their story can be a lesson to everyone with children. Washing machines are dangerous, and we all need to be more diligent about treating them as such.