Girl, 3, died after dad fell on her at playground in ‘freak accident’

The death of a three-year-old girl whose father fell off a piece of playground equipment and landed on her has been ruled a “freak accident”.

Amberlie Pennington-Foley died following the incident at a park in Upper Hutt, a city near Wellington, New Zealand, on 27 August last year.

She had been playing with her father Robert, who moved from the UK to New Zealand with his wife in 2011, on the playground at the park near their house.

A coroner’s report issued this week said the pair had been playing on a piece of equipment known as the Supernova – a rotating plastic ring suspended off the ground – when the accident occurred.

The report said Mr Foley lost his balance while on the Supernova and fell on top of his daughter. The toddler suffered severe head and neck injuries and a brain and spinal cord injury as a result of the impact.

According to the report, Amberlie was sitting on the highest part of the ring while her father stood on the other end, closer to the ground. He began stepping from one side to another, causing the wheel to spin gently.

“After repeating this sequence of sideways steps one way and then the other a few times, Mr Foley started to lose his balance,” the report said.

As he tried to jump off the ring, the wheel rotated and he fell, landing with his full weight on his daughter’s head and neck, the coroner reported.

“When Mr Foley got up from the ground, he saw Amberlie get off the seating platform. She was standing, but was very wobbly,” the coroner’s report read.

He also noticed some blood around her nose and on her top and decided to take her to a medical clinic a few minutes away but by the time he arrived, she was pale and unresponsive.

Staff at the medical clinic immediately called an ambulance but despite attempts to resuscitate her, she could not be saved.

The coroner concluded her death was not due to a fault or defect with the equipment or negligence on the part of her father.

“[Her] death was a tragic accident in the true sense of the word”  he said.

“I would not be surprised to learn that many other parents had previously operated the Supernova in a similar manner without serious incident.”

“It would have been difficult to foresee that such harm could come to Amberlie while playing on this piece of equipment.”

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