Monday 22 January 2018

Parents of tragic toddler hanged in window blind launch safety campaign

Emily Warner who died after she was accidentally hanged by a window blind cord. Photo: PA
Emily Warner who died after she was accidentally hanged by a window blind cord. Photo: PA
Emily Warner who died after she was accidentally hanged by a window blind cord. Photo: PA

Ellen Branagh

THE PARENTS of a toddler who died after she was accidentally hanged by a window blind cord helped launch a new safety campaign today as an inquest ruled her death was accidental.

Emily Warner was left severely brain-damaged after the accident last August, and died several months later in December.

An inquest at Hatfield Coroner's Court, England, heard that her father Jamie Warner found the two-year-old unconscious in her bedroom at their home in Royston, Hertfordshire, with the cord around her neck on August 25.

He had gone upstairs to talk to his son James, then four, when he found her seemingly-lifeless body.

He and his wife Tracey tried to resuscitate Emily, who was taken to hospital, but she was left with severe brain damage and unable to walk, talk or feed herself.

She died on December 1 of medical reasons stemming from her brain damage, the inquest heard.

A verdict of accidental death was recorded today by Hertfordshire coroner Edward Thomas, who commended the family for their efforts to save Emily and for their involvement in the campaign.

After the inquest, Mr Warner appealed for parents to be aware of the danger of blinds, supporting a Safe Blinds campaign launched today.

Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Board (HSCB) is campaigning to raise awareness in the wake of Emily's death, and that of another Hertfordshire toddler.

Two-year-old Arthur Winfield died after a similar accident on January 5.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) says there have been at least 18 similar deaths in the UK since 1999.

Speaking after the inquest, Mr Warner, 30, said: "We don't want other families to suffer in the way we have. By taking some simple steps with your blinds you can protect your children.

"Our family has been broken. Emmie was the light of our lives, such a wonderful little girl.

"There is no one thing that is responsible, it was an accident. We didn't see any danger because we weren't looking."

He said he hoped the campaign would make parents aware of the danger of cords and point out the simple steps they could take to make them safe.

"Hopefully other families won't go through what we've been through," he said.

Summarising the evidence, Mr Thomas told the court medical records showed Emily was a "well looked-after, healthy child".

He said Emily had gone to bed at about 6pm on August 25 and her brother James was put to bed shortly afterward.

"He (Jamie) heard about 6.15pm Emily playing in our bedroom upstairs, he then heard a bang in James' room and he went into that room to tell James to be quiet.

"He went then to check Emily and this is when he saw her on the windowsill on tiptoes.

"He realised there was something wrong, she did not respond to him when he had gone in and told her to get down."

The court heard Mr Warner then noticed the blind cord around Emily's neck.

He shouted to his wife and after getting her down, started CPR.

Speaking after the inquest, Mr Warner said: "I went to lift her down, and I noticed the cord was round her neck.

"She was grey, lifeless."

Paramedics who took over CPR managed to get a pulse and Emily was rushed to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, but had suffered severe brain damage, the inquest heard.

She had made some improvement and was moved for a few weeks to Tadworth Court in Surrey, then back to Addenbrooke's.

She was due to be moved back to Tadworth again, but died on December 1 of reasons stemming from her brain injuries.

Mr Thomas said: "I am going to say she died because of an accident.

"I cannot begin to understand how awful this must have been for you.

"I do want to assure you that everything you did when you found her was entirely correct.

"But my words are scant comfort.

"Everything I heard about Emily was that she sounded a lovely child.

"I would like to applaud you for helping in the campaign to try and build awareness of this tragedy that occurred for you.

"I applaud you for trying to help other people avoid the pain, not have the experience and undoubtedly awful pain that you have."

The inquest heard that police examined Emily's bedroom and Mr Thomas said they found no circumstances to suggest her death was anything other than a "tragic accident".

The inquest heard that the toddler previously used her chest of drawers as a "ladder" to climb up so her parents had removed it.

"She had never played with the cord before," Mr Thomas said.

Launching Hertfordshire Safeguarding Child Board's campaign today, its chair Phil Picton said: "We must do everything in our power to reduce the risk of these terrible tragedies being repeated.

"It doesn't take much time to ensure that your blind cords and chains are safe.

"Simply making sure that blind cords are tied up out of reach, even if your child climbs up to try to reach it, could prevent them from being seriously hurt or killed."

Arthur Winfield's father Oli Winfield, from Markyate, Herts, who was not at the inquest, is also backing the campaign.

He said: "You always think your home is going to be a safe place, especially for your children.

"We are totally devastated at the loss of our precious boy and urge people to take heed of the safety messages being made available through this campaign."

Detective Inspector Joanne Walker from Hertfordshire Constabulary's child protection unit said: "Having seen the emotional devastation these cases have brought to the families of Emily and Arthur, it makes total sense to launch a campaign like this to try and prevent similar tragedies happening in the future."

Hertfordshire County Council's cabinet member for children's services Richard Roberts said: "It is hard to imagine the pain that Arthur and Emily's parents must be experiencing.

"I am very grateful that they have felt able to come forward and use their own personal tragedies as a warning to others.

"We want all Hertfordshire's children to stay safe and by making a few small changes, everyone can help to protect the county's children from this sort of accident."

"Make it Safe" packs are available from RoSPA, including a cleat to tie the cord around, and safety information.

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