Toddler Died After Getting His Head Stuck Between Two Stair Gates

14/08/2014 16:54 | Updated 22 May 2015

Adventurous toddler died after getting his head stuck between two stairgates

A mum frantically tried to save her little boy after his head became trapped between two stair gates intended to keep him safe.

Xander Stephenson was left unable to breathe when he got his arm and neck wedged between the gates, which were installed to stop him falling down the stairs.

His mum, Samantha Pickford, 26, found him in the doorway of his bedroom. She tried to save him, but he was pronounced dead at the scene. He died of asphyxia.

At the inquest into his death, the coroner said it was the first time he had come across a tragedy involving a stair gate.

The inquest was told that Xander, of Poulton, near Blackpool, Lancashire, was two weeks short of his second birthday and had become 'increasingly persistent and successful' at getting out of his room in the weeks leading up to the accident on September 13.

Despite already having a stair gate, he had used his toys to climb over it and managed to wander downstairs.

His mum had feared for her son's safety and so borrowed a second gate to use above the one she already had, on the advice of other parents.

She told the hearing in Lancaster: "Xander started climbing as soon as he could move really.

"In the last six months he began climbing out of his cot and would come into my room before we would go downstairs.

"It got to a point where I would keep putting him back in his bed and every time he would climb out again, sometimes before I'd even left the room.

"One night he climbed out of the cot about 50 times and that is when I decided to put the first stair gate in.

"I didn't want to put it at the top of the stairs because if I had and he had climbed over he would have fallen down the stairs.

"The stair gate worked fine for a couple of months, until he started to use toys to climb over the gate. I tried taking the toys out, but eventually he learned how to climb over the gate himself.

"One morning I came downstairs and he had emptied my washing powder all over the floor.

"He had a spoon in his hand and was going to eat it. Another morning he had emptied my frozen food all over the floor and was trying to eat it.

"I was looking for something to help me keep him in his bedroom because I was scared that I would come down one morning and I would find him dead."

Samantha then decided to use the second gate, however just 36 hours after it was installed, little Xander had managed to squeeze his arm and neck between the two gates.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Wyre Coroner Dr James Adeley said this was the first time he had come across such an accident.

He said: "The presence of a second stair gate, to me, seems sensible after learning how adventurous Xander was.

"The position of the stair gate an inch and a half to two inches above the other also seems sensible.

"Miss Pickford, who is training for a qualification in childcare, had even checked that the gates were safe.

"I have been a coroner for nine and a half years. I have presided over some 22,000 deaths, and I have never come across a death involving a stair gate before."

He told Xander's mum: "You must not blame yourself. There is no evidence that getting to Xander a few moments earlier would have made any difference."


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