Toddler tragedy sparks call for stove safety

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 05:00 18/12/2013

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Fastening free-standing ovens to the wall will save parents going through the heartbreak Kobi Collier's mother and father endured after the toddler was suffocated beneath a stove.

Coroner Gordon Matenga issued the warning at the Hamilton District Court yesterday during an inquest into the 21-month-old's death on May 6 last year.

"This case should be a warning to all parents who have young children and who have a free-standing oven in their kitchen," Matenga told the court.

"This death was preventable, and other deaths in similar circumstances can be avoided if parents install a bracket fastening the oven to the wall."

Kobi's mother, Shannon Pratt, fought back tears as she read her version of events on that otherwise ordinary Sunday morning on Gilchrist St, Te Aroha.

There had been a party next door the previous night, but she didn't go because she had toothache.

Her sleep was restless and she woke up tired.

Pratt made a breakfast of banana and toast for Kobi and her almost three-year-old daughter. Kobi also had a bottle, yet he didn't drink it all and it was left on the kitchen bench near the oven.

The trio curled up on the couch watching kidzone on television. Pratt dozed off.

She woke up to her distressed daughter saying Kobi was stuck in the kitchen.

"I could see Kobi lying on the floor with the oven on top of him," Pratt told he court.

"I never thought he would be heavy enough for it to come down.

"I think the door closed on him.

"The trays were all over the floor."

All she could see were Kobi's legs and feet and part of his lower back, Matenga said.

"It appeared Kobi had opened the oven door and attempted to climb onto the door causing the oven to tip forward trapping him between the floor and oven."

Pratt said she lifted the stove up and pulled Kobi out. "I checked his pulse but I couldn't find one."

First aid was given immediately and an ambulance was called.

However, the call taker heard "Hillcrest St", instead of "Gilchrist St" and medics were initially sent to Tirau.

Meanwhile, another St John officer overheard the call and noticed the mistake.

Matenga said there was perhaps a 20-minute delay on arrival.

However, it was not a contributing factor in the death.

Paramedics arrived to find family member giving Kobi CPR.

The toddler wasn't breathing and they abandoned compressions after an hour.

An autopsy at Auckland Hospital found Kobi died as a result of "traumatic asphyxia".

Matenga said police tested the Fisher and Paykel oven and it met safety requirements of remaining stable with 225 Newtons of force on the open door.

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When weights equalling Kobi's 13.5kg were placed on the edge of the door the oven remained stable. But with the combined weight of both children the oven tipped forward, throwing one weight forward and trapping the other.

Matenga said: "It seems clear to me that Kobi or [the daughter] has opened the oven door and two of them have exerted pressure on the front of the oven door, perhaps both of them climbing up to get the bottle."

Kobi's father Daniel now has custody of his daughter and she's doing well, he said.

"It was tragic thing that happened and I'd hate for anyone else to have to go through it."

- Fairfax Media

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