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Four-year-old who died at Auckland childcare centre found tangled on slide by another child — coroner

WorkSafe is being urged to update it's safety alerts around strangulation hazards after a four-year-old died at an Auckland childcare centre over four years ago, after becoming tangled with cord around his neck for an unknown time before another child found help.

Angels childcare centre in Takapuna, Auckland. Source: 1 NEWS

WARNING: This story contains distressing content.

On November 18, 2016, Aldrich Viju was playing with a plastic toy stilt at Angels Childcare Centre in Takapuna.

He'd been dropped off by his dad, who was on his way to work in Henderson.

Less than an hour later, he was found on a slide with a cord from a toy stilt tangled around his neck and chest.

It is unknown how long he lay stuck then unconscious on the slide before another child found help.

No caregiver witnessed the incident.

CPR was commenced by staff at the childcare centre before paramedics took over, however Aldrich died just two hours after he was dropped off.

Coroner Sarn Herdson today released findings into the incident, which found the young boy died from the effects of hanging due to a ligatured from a cord attached to a toy stilt.

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The boy died following an accident in the outdoor play area of Angels childcare on Auckland’s North Shore. Source: 1 NEWS

On the day Aldrich died there were six staff members and 34 children at the centre.

Aldrich's parents raised concerns about the ratio of caregivers to children, but a WorkSafe report found they were in the prescribed ratios, which takes into account the ages of those attending. 

However, there was specific concern raised that a staff member in the vicinity of where Aldrich was known to be playing was looking after a child with special needs, and how that affected the ratio.

The centre said it was working appropriately within the ratio, which included special needs children.

The staff member in question said she had a whole view of the outside playground area.

She was the one who saw Aldrich walking around with one of the green stilts slung over his shoulder before the incident, but she said she did not see him climb up to the slide.

The Weplay toy stilts, which were made in Taiwan, met a consumer safety standard in the US.

However, the product did warn they were not suitable for children under three years old as it included a long cord which was a strangulation hazard. It is unknown if the hazard label was present on the stilts at the facility.

Aldrich's parents also raised concern about the professional obligations the childcare centre had to keep children safe.

However, a WorkSafe report showed Angels Childcare was compliant with its building and licensing requirements and staff were appropriately qualified. The Education Review Office in 2014 said there were no health and safety concerns at the centre.

In her recommendations today, Herdson said a safety alert published by WorkSafe in 2017, titled Managing Strangulation Hazards on Playground Equipment, should be revisited and/or republished.

She also recommended WorkSafe notify the Ministry of Education of any updates, as well as communication sent to Safekids Aotearoa to make it aware of the safety alert regardless of any changes.

"On behalf of the Coronial Services staff in Auckland I extend my sympathy to his family for his death," Herdson said.