Grieving mum’s push to change rental laws in wake of her baby’s death

Toddler Reef Kite

The mother of a little boy who was killed when a chest of drawers tipped over on top of him is pushing to have rental laws changed, and hopes to save other families from enduring similar tragedy.

Police reenactment of chest of drawers child death

A chest of drawers that crushed a small boy to death was designed in a way that even an adult would struggle to keep upright, an inquest has been told. Read the full story here: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-23/inquest-into-death-of-wa-toddler-reef-kite/9077256

Posted by ABC Perth on Monday, 23 October 2017

Tipping hazard

At around 11.30am on October 13, 2015, Perth mum Skye Quartermaine put her 22-month-old toddler Reef to bed for his usual nap. Skye checked on Reef a number of times, even changing his nappy on one occasion.

But when Skye popped back in to check on Reef at 2.45pm, she discovered her little boy was not asleep. He was on the floor with a 1.25 metre high chest of drawers on top of him. The frantic mum lifted the drawers off her toddler son, who was unresponsive, and ran with him to a neighbour’s home to get help.

Her neighbour performed CPR until an ambulance arrived, but Reef was pronounced dead at Princess Margaret Hospital at 3.34pm.

“Wouldn’t have a hope”

An inquest is currently being held into Reef’s death, with evidence given explaining that when the drawers rolled out, the chest of drawers would quickly and dangerously topple over.

“It was hard enough for an adult to stop the drawers falling forward,” Senior Constable Steven Barnes, from the investigating forensic team, told the court. “A young child wouldn’t have a hope.”

Former Coronial Investigations officer, Senior Constable Fiona Thorpe, urged parents and carers to choose “safer furniture, fix it to the wall and place locks on the drawers,” the ABC reports.

“Toppling furniture and TVs cause hundreds of serious injuries each year,” The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission confirmed earlier this year, as they issued guidelines for keeping children safer.

Choosing lower, safer furniture seems the best initial approach, because residential leases rule out fixing furniture to the walls for many.

The drawers that killed Reef were bought from a local pine furniture seller, but similar tragedies have been reported as a result of furniture and televisions purchased from a wide variety of retailers (including IKEA).

Weve had alot of new people join Reefs page in the last 24hrs so I thought I'd do a post about Reefs legacy and who is…

Posted by Dee Quartermaine on Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Rules must change

A grieving Skye Quartermaine says she had requested permission to secure the chest of drawers to the wall of the family’s rental property, but her request was declined.

“My family will always be incomplete,” Skye said outside court. “My child will never grow up. I’ll never see him graduate high school or get married for the first time, because of one little bracket that could have saved his life.”

Skye’s hoping Reef’s death will spark change in rental policies and help parents who don’t own their homes keep their kids safer.

“I would fully advocate and work with anyone willing to help change the law to allow parents to bolt that furniture without no ramifications for it,” Skye said yesterday.

Kidsafe WA chief executive officer Scott Phillips said his organisation would be working with Consumer Protection to ensure landlords and agents don’t refuse requests to affix furniture to walls.

“They really shouldn’t be knocking back any request by a family in a house to secure furniture to make their children safe,” Scott said.

Reef’s legacy

Skye’s family are determined this little boy will have a lasting legacy. They are currently raising funds to create a memorial plaque for Reef. They’ve also set up a Facebook page to create awareness of the need to secure unstable furniture, hoping to prevent future tragedies. Bolt It Back For Reef shares tips on securing furniture and shows examples of just how easily things like chest of drawers can topple over, potentially causing injury or worse.

We’re so sorry for what this family has gone through, and for the loss of their baby, and commend them for their push to keep other children safe.

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