How messy is too messy?
The grieving father and his wife were also charged with endangering the welfare of children as the house had been in an extremely messy state, allegedly having human and animal waste on the floors and walls and nappies, dirty bed linen, clothing and nappies lying around.
The father had initially said that he was busy running a bath when he heard the noise, but then admitted he had been using the toilet and that he hadn’t checked on the children for ten to fifteen minutes. A forensic pathologist suggested that had he responded to the noise straight away he may have been able to save the children. The dad said that he hadn’t thought too much about it as the kids are always jumping on the bed and making a noise.
The children are thought to have been playing in the bottom drawer of a cupboard when it toppled over on top of them. One child died on the scene, the other died from her injuries in hospital two days later.
An attorney acting for the parents has insisted that the messy house had nothing to do with the death of the children.
The tragedy has highlighted several dangers facing children in the home: Obviously the mess must have been extreme for the endangerment charges, but parents often find it difficult to keep the home neat and tidy. Even with active children there are steps parents under pressure can take to reduce the risks present in the family home:
7 home safety tips
1. Secure heavy furniture and appliances to the wall, including cupboards, television sets and bookcases to prevent those from falling over if your child climbs on the furniture.
2. Secure windows and balconies, especially on the second floor so that explorative kids don’t topple out of them.
3. Consider installing gates to prevent children gaining access to dangerous areas in the home where there may be hot appliances, bodies of water, electrical equipment or household chemicals. You may like to have a specific play area where the children now they have to stay when asked to.
4. If you’re home alone with the kids and need to use the telephone or toilet (or some other activity which may distract you from them), ensure that they are safe before doing so and that household hazards have been eliminated. Turn off the stove, for example, and don’t allow access to the bathroom if a bath has been filled if you can’t be there to supervise.
5. Tidy up as much as possible so that clothing on the floor doesn’t conceal other hazards. Leaving old food/plates or even nappies lying around is an obvious health hazard.
6. Don’t expect the TV to be a babysitter and ignore your children. If they are old enough to keep themselves busy while you’re cooking, for example, do check on them frequently.
7. Loud noises should be investigated, as should total silence.
Whether this family suffered these tragic deaths as a result of neglect will be investigated, but many parents will question just how easily a tragedy can take place even in a relatively safe environment.
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