An inquest into the death of a toddler who was strangled by a window blind cord heard pleas for action to avert similar tragedies in the future.

The coroner urged parents and carers to double check their homes to ensure the ‘silent killers’ were removed or modified. His warning came after the parents of two-year-old Bryan Saba issued heartfelt calls for steps to be taken to stop any other child dying that way.

His mother, a tearful Maria Saba told the inquest: “It’s difficult for me to be here or to speak of what happened to us but I prefer to put my hands to this task so other families won’t suffer what we are suffering today.”

Bryan became entangled in the looped blind cord of the living room window at his home in Northern Ireland. He was playing by himself and an older sister found him hanging from the cord. He sustained a significant brain injury and died in hospital 15 days later.

Double check each and every blind in your home

Northern Ireland’s coroner Joseph McCrisken said: “Nobody is to blame for what happened to Bryan. And what happened to him could also occur in hundreds if not thousands of homes across Northern Ireland.”

“The cords are lethal and silent killers of babies and young children which lurk in homes of parents and carers of young children.”

“I urge and plead with each and every parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, childminder, landlord or carer of children to double check each and every blind in your home.”

“As coroner I don’t want to hear another inquest into the death of child as a result of strangulation from a blind cord. I certainly don’t want to see another family endure the heartache or grief that this family has endured.”

Why are babies and toddlers at particular risk?

Sadly this is not an isolated incident. 30 babies and toddlers have died this way in the last 15 years.

We all know that babies and toddlers are naturally inquisitive and love to crawl and climb. But their heads weigh proportionately more than their bodies. And their muscle control isn’t fully developed, so it’s harder for them to free themselves if they get tangled in a blind cord.

Plus their windpipes are smaller and less rigid. This means they suffocate far more quickly when their necks are caught in looped blind cords and chains.

In fact, it can take just 15 seconds for a toddler to lose consciousness if they get tangled in a blind cord. Death can occur in just two or three minutes.

Strangulation often happens in children’s bedrooms and in living rooms, areas seen as safe. And it happens quickly and silently – children don’t call out to warn carers they are in trouble.

Safety advice

Please share this safety advice to help prevent similar tragedies. 

  • Tie up looped blind cords and chains well out of reach of small children, using one of the many cleats, cord tidies or tensioners that are available.
  • Move children’s beds, cots, highchairs and playpens away from blinds with looped cords.
  • If possible, move other furniture away too, as small children love to climb.
  • If you can, replace your old blinds with blinds that are ‘safe by design’. These are cordless or have concealed or tensioned cords.

Visit the British Blind and Shutter Association’s Make It Safe website for more advice on reducing the dangers posed by blinds.