The morning of October 19th, 2018 seemed like every other morning in Newark, California. Jeremy and Leanne Opperman had no suspicion their lives would change forever that day. Their three-year-old daughter, Macie, spent her afternoon playing on the playground with her classmates at Park Side Preschool. At some point the tire swing Macie was playing on tipped over, spilling all the children to the ground. Unfortunately, Macie was pinned underneath the swing frame and did not survive the accident.
After learning their daughter had been hurt at school, the Oppermans were shocked. Other families at the preschool pushed for answers: how could a piece of playground equipment fall over? In the pursuit of truth a classmate’s father, Lucas Eckels, built a website for parents of the preschool students. He continues to update the site with details about legal action, state safety inspections, and statements from the school. Most recently, Eckels announced the Oppermans had filed a wrongful death suit against the preschool. Their lawsuit claims the preschool was negligent and caused Macie’s preventable death.
What Happened On October 19th, 2018
Macie, along with two of her classmates, were being supervised by an adult at the time of the accident. The swing was mounted on an A-frame style structure which tipped over during play. All children fell to the ground, but only Macie “hit her head”. The official explanation from the school follows:
The A frame with the swing still attached fell backwards on the ground. The children fell to the ground while still on the swing and sadly [victim] hit her head. The children on the swing were all being supervised by a teacher at the time of the accident.
Why Did The Swing Tip Over?
The swing in question was only installed two weeks prior to the event. A volunteer built the swing frame and mounted it on the playground, despite having no documented relevant construction skills. Brackets were purchased online and combined with local lumber to build the A-frame; the build itself did not fail. However, the equipment was never properly anchored to the ground. Additionally, the school did not install safety equipment like padding underneath the swing.
Playgrounds are meant to be safe spaces for children, which is why safety standards exist. Later investigations revealed the school did not attempt to comply with basic safety regulations. In fact, the manufacturer of the swing stated it was prohibited for non-residential use. They also disclosed the production process. Apparently, the manufacturer of the equipment did not comply with any form of industry-recognized safety standards!
What Are Safety Standards For Playground Equipment?
The Consumer Product Safety Commission, or the CPSC, suggests everyone follows basic safety standards. However, these standards are voluntary. There is currently no federal body that regulates playground equipment safety. ASTM is an industry trade group that produces safety recommendations for public or home use. While playgrounds aren’t overseen by a federal body, states may have individual regulations they enforce. California specifically requires preschools to follow the ASTM standards and receive an inspection of installed equipment before use.
Park Side Preschool did neither.
Park Side Preschool Found In Violation
Over the course of a few inspections, CCLD (the California agency that enforces playground safety) found Park Side Preschool in violation of their standards. Since the incident, CCLD issued two citations to Park Side. In addition to citations and fines, CCLD has the authority to revoke Park Side’s license to operate.
Indeed, on February 27th, 2019, CCLD filed legal papers to revoke Park Side’s license. Initially, the school informed parents that they would not be appealing the decision. They announced a closure date of April 19th, 2019. A few weeks after their announcement, Park Side reversed their decision and filed a motion to appeal the decision. Still, the school closed its doors on April 19th - the six month anniversary of Macie’s avoidable death.
Park Side has a court date in June for the appeal of their revocation. BabyGaga will update with developments as the Oppermans pursue justice for Macie.