An Oregon family is devastated after a tragic accident took the life of their toddler. Tiffany Hebb was doing laundry, while her 21-month-old Ollie kept her company. When she left the room briefly, he crawled into the washing machine and drowned.
A frantic Hebb found her son minutes later trapped in the water-filled basin and tried desperately to resuscitate him. After suffering severe brain damage, he died the following day in the hospital.
"It was the worst day of my life," the grieving mother told a local Fox affiliate through tears. Now Tiffany and her husband Chris are on a mission to educate parents about the dangers of the seemingly innocuous household appliance.
"I want to make mothers and fathers aware that it's a possibility," she said.
Read more: Toddler's trauma highlights laundry room dangers
Between 2005 and 2009, two children under the age of five lost their lives in laundry room accidents, according to a report by the Consumer Product Safety Commision. In a 2003 review, two deaths and an estimated 500 other injuries to children were attributed to washing machine-related accidents. Most kids were between the ages of 1 and 2, and fell victim to a range of injuries including fractures, amputations and even drowning.
Some of potential washing machine hazards, according to the report:
- Drowning after getting locked inside the machine
- Injuries jumping or falling off the top of the machine
- Heated water from the machine causing burns
- Getting limbs caught in the motorized spinning basin
The biggest problem when the CPSC conducted their review back in 2003, is still a problem now: lack of education. The report at the time acknowledged that more public education is needed so parents can prevent these kinds of injuries. Ever the vigilant mother, Hebb spent the first year of her son's life guarding him from every household danger she was warned about. She said she never expected the washer would be the biggest threat.
Despite improved safety functions on automatic washing machines, the best prevention from injury is keeping kids far away from the laundry room altogether. (Even if the washing machine is avoided, the scalding hot dryer can be just as dangerous.) Unfortunately many parents aren't aware of the risks.
More ways to child-proof your home
"Believe it or not, a small child can drown in as little as an inch or two of water," warns Home Safety Council's Mary Kay Appy in a safety video featured on Good Housekeeping. "They're top heavy -- their head goes into the bucket but they don't have the upper body strength to pull themselves out."
Appy encourages parents to invest in washers and dryers with built-in child safety locks. Another safety measure: install locks or child safety knobs to the laundry room door. A little extra child-proofing could save a life.
Two accidents reveal laundry room dangers
Baby-proofing tips and tricks
Is it safe to leave your toddler to shower?