Page last updated at 16:19 GMT, Friday, 13 March 2009

Expert warns of more blind deaths

Muireann McLaughlin [Pic: Central Scotland News Agency]
Muireann had climbed onto the window to wave to her grandmother

More children will be killed by looped window blind cords if parents are not made aware of the dangers, a fatal accident inquiry has heard.

Muireann McLaughlin was hanged by a cord at her home in Clackmannanshire last February after climbing onto the window sill to wave to her grandmother.

A safety expert told the hearing that simple and cheap safety measures would have prevented the death.

Outside court, the McLaughlin family warned other parents about the risks.

At Alloa Sheriff Court, a chartered engineer who examined the blind used in the family home in Menstrie said the tragedy could have been prevented if a hook had been put up to keep the cord out of reach.

Dr Gordon Heywood said: "For less than a pound, you could save your child's life."

He said blind cords were now made differently and safer, but hundreds of thousands of blinds fitted before the standards changed remained in British homes.

We wish to do all we can to prevent another family from suffering as we have
Kate and Angus McLaughlin

He said: "They will continue to contribute to children's deaths for a good few years unless there is a campaign to make people aware of the dangers."

Dr Heywood said three other simple safety measures would also have prevented Muireann's death - if the blind cord had been shorter, if it had been fitted with a plastic link designed to part under pressure, or if it had been secured to the window sash by a block, sprocket, or pulley.

The inquiry heard that there had been at least eight deaths and two near-deaths of very young children hanged by window blind cords in the UK since 2000.

The inquiry was adjourned until 27 March for legal submissions.

On the court steps, family members all wearing something pink - Muireann's favourite colour - surrounded her mother Kate, 36, and father Angus, 40, as they read a statement.

It said: "On 5 February 2008, our bright and beautiful daughter Muireann Caitlin McLaughlin died as a result of a dreadful accident in our family home.

"She was aged two years and five months. Her passing left us all utterly devastated and we wish to do all we can to prevent another family from suffering as we have."

They added that they had wanted a fatal accident inquiry to make those looking after children aware of the dangers of roller window blind cords left loose in a loop.

The statement continued: "In addition, we earnestly hope that this inquiry will receive as much publicity as possible to bring this threat to the attention of all installers, manufacturers and suppliers of roller window blinds, so that safer methods of installing such cords may be adopted without delay."

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