Four-Year-Old’s Death Highlights Bunk Bed Dangers

DanielMcGarryThe British newspaper The Telegraph published a harrowing story this week about a four-year-old boy from Cumbria, England who died after rolling off a bunk bed in his sleep.

The hand-me-down bed originally came with barriers on both sides of the top bunk, but family members had reassembled the bed without the barrier on the wall side. “Relatives were unsure what had happened to it but thought that since the bed was pushed up against a wall any child using it would be safe,” The Telegraph explained.

On the evening of February 15, Daniel McGarry was placed in the top bunk after he had fallen asleep. When his mother checked on him later that night, she found him hanging between the bed and the wall, and a neighbor with medical training was unable to revive him.

“If there is a wider message to be passed out, it would be to check that bunk beds are properly constructed,” Coroner David Roberts told The Telegraph. “Parents should also ensure that barriers are placed on both sides. They can’t rely on the wall alone being adequate protection to stop a child slipping down and falling from the bed.”

In 2000, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission set mandatory requirements for all bunk beds manufactured in the United States to prevent children from becoming trapped in the bed or between the bed and the wall. Bunk beds made since 2000 must meet the following standards:

  • Every bunk bed must have an affixed label that states the bed’s manufacturer, model, and mattress size information.
  • Every bunk bed must have a warning label that advises against placing children under six years of age in the upper bunk.
  • If the bunk bed is taller than 30 inches, it must have a continuous guardrail on the wall side of bed.
  • Openings on the upper and the lower bunks must be small enough that a child’s head, torso, or limb cannot pass through them.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission also warns that children younger than six should never sleep in the upper level of a bunk bed. Additional safety tips from the Commission:

  • Follow instructions carefully when assembling a new bunk bed.
  • Use only proper-sized, manufacturer-recommended mattresses.
  • Make sure that there are no openings in either the upper or lower bunk that are large enough for a child’s head, torso, or limb to pass through.
  • Discuss safety concerns and the proper usage of bunk beds with your children.

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  1. by scott

    On September 12, 2011 at 7:42 am

    What the article somewhat leaves out is that the child was found hanging from the metal bunk bed. The focus is that he died because he fell; he actually died because the bunk bed didn’t give any and either his head got caught or his head was tied up in the bed sheets.

    As a child I fell out of my bunk bed at least a dozen times (I fell out out a 3 person bunk bed with me on top once!). So I expected the death to be from the falling.

    The problem that I have with the article is that I would suspect there is a greater danger in using metal bunk beds (can’t give if the child gets stuck). And that it is odd that the parents are using a bunk bed at all for a 4 year old (they don’t recommend them for anyone under 6). It is funny that the first suggestion for the US Consumer Product Safety Commission is that the name of the manufacturer be on the product. The second is the warning label. Maybe the first should be not to use it for a child under 6.

  2. by Brenda

    On September 12, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    As a kid, I fell out of a bunk bed and smacked my head on a hard, wooden floor. Granted this was in the early 90′s and the bunk bed did not have rails. I was also around six years old. If there would not have been a pile of blankets and my older sister’s clothes on the floor, the doctor said I would have possibly broken several ribs or vertebrae. As it was I had a severe concussion and a hairline fracture in my skull. I will NEVER allow bunk beds in my house because I am actually scared of them now and do not want my kids to use them. To this day the sight of a bunk bed makes my stomach hurt and this story made me feel very ill. Bunk beds just are not safe regardless if they rails or not.

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