Falling furniture a hazard for children

Deaths of two Aliquippa tots grim reminder that danger lurks with everyday items in the home

Every two weeks, a child is killed by falling furniture in the United States.

On Friday, it happened in Aliquippa.

Two-year-old Brooklyn Beatty and her sister, Ryeley, who was 3, were pinned beneath a dresser that fell on them in their home on Irwin Street. Always together, the sisters had been playing in the drawers, which they liked to climb, and pulled the dresser onto themselves, family members said Monday.

Community gathers to remember Beatty sisters

Family and friends gathered in Aliquippa tonight to remember Brooklyn and Ryeley Beatty, whose accidental deaths were a result of a dresser falling on top of them this past weekend.

The toddlers were unresponsive when they were found by their father, according to family members. Brooklyn was taken to Heritage Valley Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead. Ryeley died Sunday at Children’‍s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. 

Beaver County Coroner Teri Tatalovich-Rossi has determined that both girls died of asphyxia due to compression of the chest. She ruled their deaths were accidental. Aliquippa police are still investigating the case, but no charges have been filed against the parents, 28-year-old David and Jennifer Beatty.

On Monday evening, more than 100 members of the community gathered outside the family‘‍s home to remember the girls and to pray for their parents, their three siblings and other family members and friends. 

Ryeley and Brooklyn were sweethearts, two little peas in a pod who followed each other everywhere and who looked out for each other even at their young ages, their mother said. 

“They were such thoughtful little girls,” Mrs. Beatty said, as friends and loved ones hugged her and offered their condolences and prayers after the vigil. “If Ryeley’‍s sippy cup was empty, Brooklyn would hand it to me and when I filled their cups, Ryeley would give Brooklyn‘‍s to her, and Brooklyn would say, ’‍Thank you.‘‍ ”

The entire family is grieving right now, but the girls’‍ parents are especially hurt because they are tormenting themselves about the accident, said Mrs. Beatty‘‍s mother, Pam Warnick of Center.

“They’‍re beating themselves up: ‘‍What if I did this? What if I did that?’‍” she said. “They feel so guilty.”

Monday evening‘‍s vigil, in which members of the Aliquippa community placed flowers and stuffed animals outside the family’‍s white frame house, and votive candles flickered gently atop a small table outside the front gate, at least was a step toward healing, Mrs. Warnick told Aliquippa Mayor Dwan B. Walker.

PG graphic: Child deaths
(Click image for larger version)

“We‘‍re numb, but this -- I feel it, and I thank you,” Mrs. Warnick said to Mr. Walker, who responded to the scene of the accident and who helped organize the vigil.

“This is what we do,” he told her. “We’‍re Aliquippa, and we‘‍re going to be there for you -- you’‍re going to be in our prayers, know that.”

Members of the public are welcome to attend the girls‘‍ viewing at the Tatalovich Funeral Home on McMinn Street in Aliquippa on Wednesday from 4 to 8 p.m., family members said. A funeral service will be held at the funeral home on Thursday at 11 a.m., with private interment to follow. 

As painful as such losses are, they happen all too commonly. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, between 2000 and 2011, a total of 25,400 children were admitted to emergency rooms with furniture-related injuries. Of those, 294 of those cases were fatal and involved children ranging in age from one month to 8 years old. 

In 2005, U.S. Rep. Alysson Schwartz, D-Pa., introduced a bill aimed at improving furniture-related safety after a 3-year-old girl was killed when a dresser fell on her. The bill ultimately helped produce a set of guidelines for furniture safety that were issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission involving furniture stabilization, warning labels and safety tips.

“At the time, no such standards existed and it helped give consumers better tools to keep their children safe,” said Ms. Schwartz on Monday.

Rachel Weintraub, legislative director and senior counsel for the Consumer Federation of America, said the voluntary measures are helpful, but lack the legal requirement of total compliance. 

“There was a lot of hope at the time of the legislation that the voluntary standard would be enough,” Ms. Weintraub said. “Unfortunately, I don’‍t think it has been.”

The voluntary standards were updated in 2009. One standard requires a piece of furniture to remain upright with all of its drawers open and a 50-pound weight placed on its top.

A Safety Commission study showed that 54 percent of children who are injured by tip-over furniture are between 2 and 6 years old.

The Safety Commission offers a series of product safety guidelines for parents of young children. It calls for furniture to be attached to the floor and walls, securing televisions or placing them low to the floor, and keeping items that children might try to reach at ground level.  It also recommends wrapping all cords and attaching freestanding items to anti-tip brackets.

It also strongly cautions parents to supervise children in any room that lacks proper protections.

“The saddest thing is that we have the information to prevent it,” said Ms. Weinraub. “So let’‍s do it.”

Aliquippa police said the dresser that fell on the two girls was manufactured by Koala Home. Officials of the company could not be reached for comment.

Emma S. Brown: ebrown@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3778. Amy McConnell Schaarsmith: aschaarsmith@post-gazette.com. First Published July 7, 2014 11:58 PM


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