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3-year-old who fell to his death: Coroner warns against leaving young children alone at home

Investigators found imprints on the air-con ledge that matched those of the boy's slippers

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Singapore — A coroner holding an inquiry into the death of a three-year-old boy who had fallen from a 7th-floor flat has warned against leaving young children alone at home.

According to a CNA report on Tuesday (Aug 18), the boy had been living with his grandparents in the Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 flat because his father was often in jail and his mother had moved away when he  was about a year old.

The boy was often left in the care of his grandfather, while the grandmother worked in the coffee shop downstairs as a stall assistant.

In February, the grandfather was overseas for work, so the boy was left with only the grandmother to care for him. On the early morning of Feb 18, the boy refused to wake up so she decided to leave him alone at home to go downstairs for work.

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She believed the boy would continue to sleep since it was only 5.30 am and intended to return by 7 am when her co-worker arrived at the stall. She was planning to take her grandson to the childcare centre at 8 am and then go back to work.

When she left their apartment, she closed the main door but did not lock it. The main gate was also left unlocked but the padlock was  hooked onto it.

The window in the master bedroom did not have grilles but was shut because the aircon had been switched on. However, the window could be easily opened since it was quite old.

This was apparently the first time the grandmother had left the boy alone. She usually took him with her when her husband could not watch over him. She said the boy was afraid of the dark when left at home by himself.

According to the CNA report, a neighbour was in her kitchen preparing breakfast about an hour after the grandmother had left for work when she heard a loud thud. When she went to look outside her window, she saw the boy lying at the foot of the block. She called the police.

Police officers found the boy lying on the concrete ground. His slippers were nearby. Paramedics pronounced the boy dead at the scene. The CNA report said the cause of death was “multiple injuries sustained in a fall from height”. When investigators checked the flat, they found imprints on the ledge of the air-con that matched those of the boy’s slippers.

The grandmother said she was shocked by the boy’s fall and regretted leaving him alone at home. She had also never seen him attempt to open the window or lean against it, although he did enjoy standing on the bed to look outside since it was right beside the window. She added that she and her husband would warn the boy that it was dangerous to be too close to the window.

State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam called the boy’s death “a tragic misadventure”.

“As a rule, a young child should not be left alone at home. The potential for grave harm is enormous,” she said.

The coroner cited a number of other accidents that occurred after parents had left their young children alone at home. In one case, a six-year-old girl who had been left alone at home by her mother for almost six hours ended up falling to her death from their 11th-floor flat. /TISG

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