Farr West girl's near-strangulation on swings spurs safety reminders

Apr 5 2013 - 11:35pm

FARR WEST -- Tragic accidents like the one that left a 3-year-old Farr West girl in critical condition after her neck became tangled in a rope on backyard swing set are rare in Utah, says a state official.

Jenny Johnson, injury prevention coordinator for the Utah Department of Health, said the state only tracks playground mishaps on school campuses, adding she is unaware of any swing set strangulations.

Most swing injuries are caused by children jumping from them, resulting in broken bones, cuts, bruises and abrasions, Johnson said. Some schools have removed swing sets from playgrounds because of misuse by students.

"They are not designed (for children) to jump out of them," Johnson said.

Thursday's accident occurred about 7:30 p.m. in the backyard of a home on Remuda Drive in Farr West, said Weber County Sheriff's Lt. Mark Lowther.

A 3-year-old girl had been playing alone for less than five minutes when her father discovered her neck tangled in a swing set rope, he said.

She was transported to Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City and remained in critical condition Friday.

"It's a tragedy," said Lowther. "I hope she pulls through."

A similar accident happened in 2010 in Woods Cross when a 6-year-old girl's clothing became caught and she was choked on a swing set.

The federal Consumer Product Safety Division investigated 40 deaths associated with playground equipment from 2001 to 2008, the latest statistics available.

There were 27 deaths from hangings or other asphyxiations, including 12 associated with slides and nine on swings.

The average age of the hanging victims was a little over 5 years, and the oldest was 11 years, the CPSD found.

It's always advisable for parents to keep a close eye on young children using swings and playground equipment, said Johnson.

"The best protection is adult supervision."

Playground safety tips

  • Actively supervise. Stay alert, move around and always keep kids in sight, especially younger ones.
  • Do not dress your child in clothes with loose strings (drawstring pants or halter-tops, for example).
  • Children should wear shoes at all times.
  • Make sure the playground surface (underneath equipment such as swings, climbers, and slides) is mulch, sand, rubber matting or pea gravel. Asphalt, concrete, blacktop, packed dirt and rocks are not fall-safe.
  • Check equipment for faults before allowing your children to play. S-hooks should be entirely closed, bolts should not jut out, and all equipment should be firmly anchored to the ground.
  • Go over basic precautions with your children, such as always taking turns, sliding feet-first down on a slide, watching out for other children before climbing down from a jungle gym and never running in front of the swings.
  • Allow your child to play only on age-appropriate equipment. Play areas for 2- to 5-year-olds and 6- to 12-year-olds should be located in separate areas.
  • Children should not play on ropes or on swings that have wooden or metal seats.
  • Bring along a first-aid kit; it can be something as simple as a zip-lock bag with some wet wipes, a few adhesive bandages and a tube of antibiotic cream.
  • Make sure you child wears sunscreen and stays properly hydrated.

Source: www.scholastic.com

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