Family of toddler who fell from seventh-floor Leeds flat say council window safety leaflets are 'bare minimum'
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One-year-old Exodus Eyob fell from a high-rise tower on Saville Green after going into his older sister's bedroom and climbing on her bed, which was under the window.
Yesterday (December 5), a coroner found that Exodus fell "while unsupervised for several minutes at a time when a window was open".
Senior coroner Kevin McLoughlin recorded a conclusion of accidental death and declined to make a prevention of future deaths report.
The inquest at Wakefield Coroner's Court heard the windows in the flat had a key locking system and restrictors on the hinge which stopped them from being opened more than a few inches, but that these had been "voluntarily and deliberately disengaged" at some point before Exodus's death on July 2 last year.
Exodus's mother Birikti Berihew claimed she had repeatedly asked Leeds City Council for a cable lock like one she had seen in a neighbour's flat.
The inquest heard key-controlled cable locks, which restrict how far a window can open, were given to residents as part of a one-off campaign in 2011 following the death of a six-year-old boy at another tower block in the area.
Mr McLoughlin said that "additional window locks are not the answer" and the cable lock would only have "duplicated" the two safety features that were already installed on the window.
He said: "One painful lesson which I hope will be drawn to the attention of people living with children in properties of any height is that window restrictors are there for a purpose.
"It is important not to override restrictors except under controlled conditions for a brief period of time to clean the outside surface."
The coroner also said it was necessary to have "a strict system to ensure a window is never left open at a time when a small child could gain access to it unsupervised".
After the inquest, Exodus's sister Reem Semere, 19, said she still believed that a cable lock would have prevented her "adorable" brother's death.
She told reporters: "We hoped there would be a campaign or measure put in place after my baby brother's death, but instead in the inquest Leeds City Council has said that they are going to send window safety leaflets to residents.
"I think we can all agree that this is the absolute bare minimum and extremely ineffective in preventing any future deaths as the risk still remains.
"We feel that the benefits of a permanent restrictor have been misunderstood and we maintain that a permanent restrictor should be fitted to all high rise tower blocks housing children or people with disabilities.
"People might not read the leaflets, some people can't speak English properly, they might not even see it."
Speaking through a Tigrinya interpreter, Ms Berihew told the inquest she raised concerns about window safety "many times" to the council but agreed that the language barrier may have been an issue.
The inquest heard Leeds City Council only had a record of Ms Berihew complaining about the flat windows once.
Exodus, who was 22 months old at the time, was described as a healthy, sturdy toddler who was big for his age and could climb on furniture.
Ms Semere told the hearing that her brothers were not allowed in her bedroom because the only place for the bed was under the window, and that she would lock the room when she went out.
The inquest heard that on the day of Exodus's death, Ms Semere left her bedroom at about 1pm.
She told the hearing she had opened the window "about six inches" the night before because it was hot, and had not closed it before leaving the room.
Ms Semere said she went into the living room to hug her brothers before going to the kitchen to greet her mother and to the bathroom to brush her teeth, and saw that Exodus was missing when she returned.
The inquest heard Ms Berihew and Ms Semere searched the flat for him, and went into Ms Semere's unlocked room to find the window "more open than it had been".
Ms Semere said her mother started screaming when she leaned out of the window and saw Exodus lying on the ground below.
Councillor Jess Lennox, Leeds City Council's executive member for housing, said: "First and foremost, our thoughts today are with Exodus’s family. They have suffered a truly tragic loss and we’d like to offer them our deep and sincere condolences.
“We note the comments made by the coroner at the conclusion of the inquest, and will be considering them carefully.
“We in particular note the coroner’s comments on the importance of education and awareness with regard to window safety and the proper use of restrictors and, to this end, we will continue our ongoing work to communicate the correct advice to all residents in our high-rise buildings.
“The safety and wellbeing of everyone in Leeds is of paramount importance to the council and its dedicated teams operating across all services, including housing.”