SINGAPORE: A three-year-old boy who was found dead at the foot of a block in Ang Mo Kio in February had been left alone in the seventh-floor flat, a coroner found on Tuesday (Aug 18), reiterating her advice against such a practice.
The boy was living with his grandparents at a block in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1, as his father was frequently in jail and his mother had lived apart from the family about a year after he was born.
The toddler was usually cared for by his grandfather while his grandmother worked as a stall assistant in the coffee shop downstairs.
However at that time, the boy's grandfather was overseas for work. On the morning of Feb 18, the boy would not rouse from his sleep, so his grandmother decided to leave him at home while she went to work, expecting him to continue sleeping.
This was the first time she had done so, as she previously would take the boy with her to work if her husband was away, saying that the boy was afraid of the dark if left home alone.
On the day of the incident, the woman intended to return home at 7am after opening the stall at 5.30am. Her colleague would have already reported for work. She planned to take her grandson to a childcare centre at 8am before returning to the stall.
She left him at home with the main door shut but unlocked. The main gate was also unlocked, with only a padlock hooked onto it.
The window in the master bedroom had no grilles installed on it and was shut as the air-conditioning was on, but the window was old and could be opened easily.
About an hour after the grandmother left for work, a neighbour heard a loud thud while preparing breakfast in her kitchen.
She looked out of the window and saw the boy lying motionless at the foot of the block and immediately notified the police.
Police officers found the boy lying in a pool of blood on a concrete pathway with his slippers nearby. Paramedics pronounced him dead that morning.
The cause of death was found to be from multiple injuries sustained in a fall from height.
Imprints found on an air-con ledge outside his flat window matched the boy's slippers.
GRANDMOTHER DOTED ON THE BOY
His grandmother said she doted on him and was shocked to learn of his fall. She regrets leaving him at home and is learning to cope with the loss.
She said her grandson was a very active boy who would run around the house, climb up on the sofa and jump around.
While she had observed that her grandson liked to stand on the bed in the master bedroom to look out of the window, she said she had never seen him open the window or lean against it.
She and her husband had previously warned the boy that it was dangerous to go near the window, which was next to the bed.
State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam said the boy's death was a tragic misadventure. He had likely woken up and found himself alone, she said.
As he was afraid of the dark, he must have decided to look for his grandmother and put on his slippers and opened the window, climbing onto the air-con ledge before falling.
The boy's death "clearly illustrates the potential harm of leaving a young child alone at home", said the coroner.
"Young children are known to be impulsive and unpredictable. They lack the cognitive maturity to appreciate the consequences of their actions," she said.
This was not an isolated incident, said the coroner, listing several other cases where young children had fallen to their deaths when left alone.
In January last year, a five-year-old boy fell from the window of an eighth-floor office after waking up alone, she said.
In June last year, a six-year-old girl fell to her death from a flat on the 11th floor after her mother left her alone at home for almost six hours.
"As a rule, a young child should not be left alone at home. The potential for grave harm is enormous," said the coroner, conveying her condolences to the family of the boy.