Winchester: Inquest Hears Toddler Crushed By Post Box

A toddler died near Winchester after he was crushed by a cast-iron ornamental pillar box that toppled on top of him as he climbed on it in the garden of his home, an inquest has heard.

John Henry Smith, who was 19 months old, was playing with his four-year-old brother David James when the accident happened at the Star Hill permanent travellers' site in Hartley Wintney on May 15 this year.

His mother, Jane Smith, said she had checked on the two boys playing and then shortly afterwards her older son shouted to her that the letter box had fallen on John Henry.

She said that she found that the Victorian-style pillar box had fallen from its 2ft-high plinth on top of him.

Mrs Smith said:

"I remember his face and him looking at me. I would have lifted the letter box off but I can't remember.

"The moment I looked I realised the colour wasn't right, the colour had drained from him. The ambulance took so long to come.''

Mrs Smith said her uncle then took them to their doctor's surgery where attempts were made to help him before he was taken by ambulance to Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey.

She described how John Henry stood up after the accident and had to be strapped into the ambulance by the paramedics.

She said: "They were baffled at how he kept trying to get out.''

Mrs Smith added that John Henry also showed signs of fitting which the inquest heard was caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain.

John Henry had recently begun climbing on things in the home including the kitchen work surface and had also toppled the television off its stand. She said: "He was a wild one.''

Joyce Perkins, site manager at Star Hill, said she heard shouting as she passed Mrs Smith's home and found her "hysterical'' there.

John Henry appeared to be having a seizure or fits and was making involuntary movements. She added: "John Henry looked very glazed over the eyes, very white, yellowy, his eyes were open but he wasn't with us. His lips started to go blue.''

Andrew Bradley, coroner for North Hampshire, said that a post mortem examination showed that John Henry died of a ruptured liver caused by the pressure of the pillar box landing on his body.

He said that the medics initially thought he had suffered a head injury because of a cut to the back of his head but it was the lack of blood caused by the liver injury that caused his death.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, he said: "I am sorry, the circumstances are perhaps those that a 19-month-old will get in.

"He's a climber, he's a bruiser and a do-er and bless him he's climbing on the post box, it's an old cast iron post box, and in the course of that the article falls on top of him.

"It's thought initially he's suffered a head injury, he has bleeding from the back of his head, that is the visible sign, what is not appreciated at that stage is the weight of the post box on the 19-month-old, it has crushed his liver, the effects of that would have been immediate.

"He certainly wouldn't have been aware of any of this at that stage, he is passing into unconsciousness and that would have happened very quickly.''

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