Mum of injured 6-year-old warns sun hats pose serious strangulation danger

Gail Oster

This mother has issued a grave warning that could save other children from injury – or worse. Gail Oster urged parents to check the cord or tie fastening on their child’s hats, after her little girl was nearly fatally strangled by her broad-brimmed, school sun hat.

“Bad neck injury”

Gail’s 6-year-old daughter Marley was going down her school’s slide in her sun safe hat when the cord from her hat became snagged. The little girl was left stuck, unable to breathe and hanging by the neck.

Thankfully, an older girl – 8-year-old Madison – inched down the slide to reach Marley and manually released the safety clip on the cord, saving Marley from further injury – and possibly death.

“It resulted in a really bad neck injury. The doctor told me another 45 seconds and her windpipe would have collapsed,” a distressed Gail told The Advertiser. Her daughter had a very upsetting, narrow escape.

The clips on these hat cords are meant to safely release themselves when under pressure like this, but in Marley’s case the clip failed.

Grave warning

Gail took to Facebook to share images of Marley’s injury and issued a warning to other parents:

“Warning parents !!! My daughter today was hung by her own hat on the slide at school ….It was a school hat with a QUICK/SAFETY RELEASE CLIP that was suppose to open under pressure, this didn’t happen. Please all parents either check your child’s hat that the clip releases under pressure or cut the cord completely off the hat…..Please if your child has had an injury from school hat please post pic of child’s injury and the hat label …Please and name the supplier thank you…” Gail posted.


Warning parents !!! My daughter today was hung by her own hat on the slide at school ….It was a school hat with a…

Posted by Gail Oster on Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Not the first time

There have been a number of similar cases of cord strangulation from sun hats across Australia.

5-year-old Toowoomba student was left hanging by her hat until the cord thankfully snapped. Her neck was badly injured and the family understandably shaken by her ordeal.

A 4-year-old WA boy suffered a similar injury, left hanging from play equipment unable to breath, saved only by the cord on his hat snapping.

These reported injuries are the tip of the iceberg, if Gail’s post is anything to go by. Other children have suffered the same painful, frightening and potentially life-threatening experience – even if they were wearing hats with the safety-release clip.

“My daughter was hung by her hat on the monkey bars last year, we immediately cut the cords of it! The hat was purchased from Lowes and was the school uniform hat again with the supposed safety release clip that never released!!! As you can see the safety clip caused the most damage being pressed against her wind pipe! We are so lucky that another student was quick thinking and managed to get her down safely before too much damage was done”

“The same thing happened to my son about 22 years ago before they had the quick release cord after that happened I cut the cords on all the kids hats. He was also on the slide. I hope your little girl is okay,” one commenter on her update said.

“Cant believe these hats are still available. These were banned when my boys were in primary school. Over 12 years ago, because of the exact [same] thing,” another mum wrote.

“This is absolutely true. Cut them off. I have seen many children injured because of these strings,” one woman agreed.

Decisive response

South Australia has responded to the latest horrible incidents in their state by banning potentially dangerous cords and toggles on hats last week.

The South Australian Department for Education and Child Development also issued the following safety requirements to schools, to ensure the safety of children in their care.

  • Inspect school hats worn by students and remove any cords
  • Check their current stock of hats and clothing in their uniform shops and immediately remove any cords, including draw strings on hooded tops
  • Review the design of their school hats and clothing to ensure that the hats on offer do not have chin straps, cords, drawstrings and toggles and hooded clothing has no draw string
  • Prohibit the wearing of any uniform or other hats that do not meet the above safety recommendations
  • Ensure children are supervised appropriately for their age and the play equipment being used
  • ensure play equipment, particularly the slippery dip and fireman’s pole, is free from pinch points, sharp edges or protrusions that may catch cords, drawstrings and toggles.

We’re hoping other states and territories will follow suit quickly.


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