Defective Water Slide Kills Mother of 18-Month-Old Girl

The Boston.com on the story of the Aleo family and the tragic death of Robin Aleo, a 29-year-old wife and mother, who hit her head on the side of a swimming pool while sliding down a Banzai Falls inflatable pool slide. She was unable to breathe on her own because of a broken neck and died the next day. Her young daughter witnessed the tragedy.Defective Water Slide Kills

Family Filed Suit

It was later discovered that the slide, purchased only a month before the accident, was defective. According to government regulations, pool slides are meant to hold at least 350 pounds without failing or sustaining damage. In this case, the slide was unable to handle Aleo’s 150 pounds and gave out easily. The slide, purchased from Toys “R” Us via Amazon.com, had not been tested by the toy company. The family took its case to court and was awarded $20.6 million. Of that, $2.5 million compensated for Aleo’s lifetime of lost wages, $18 million covered punitive damages and $100,000 was in recognition of the pain and suffering Aleo endured before her death.

Pool Slide Defects

Proper testing will expose the kind of defect that killed Aleo. Most pool-slide imperfections come from material failures, environmental effects, surface-material risks, toxicity and chemical non-compatibility. Toys “R” Us failed to test the slide for safety before selling the product, as required by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The product testing company the toy retailer uses was never asked to look at the inflatable slide. Defense lawyers argued that inflatable slides are not the same as traditional hard-structure slides and therefore are not subject to the same consumer safety laws. The court did not agree.

The Banzai slide was tested to comply with other laws and failed showing excess levels of lead, yet the company sold the slide anyway. Even a simple test would have shown that the inflatable pool slide gives out easily, making it unreliable and unsafe. Any slider could sustain serious injuries or be killed.

More than 4,000 of the inflatable Banzai Falls in-ground pool slides were sold nationwide and so far, two people have suffered serious injuries. Mark Grantham was injured prior to Aleo’s accident, leaving him a wheelchair-bound quadriplegic. His court case is still pending against Wal-Mart and the slide’s Chinese manufacturer.

The Aleo family did not file a lawsuit to gain monetary compensation; they knew that a high-profile case could bring much-needed media attention to the problem of untested waterslides. By bringing the problem to public attention, more families will use caution with inflatable water slides. The family wanted to send a message to retailers and importers about the need “to make sure, not just for toys but for all products, that they comply with our laws and that they are safe.”

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