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Boy's Death in Grease Trap Came as Mom Turned Her Back

It only took seconds
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 26, 2019 9:30 AM CDT
This Sept. 8, 2019, file photo shows a Tim Hortons in Halifax, Nova Scotia.   (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press via AP)

(Newser) – He'd been out of sight for a second when it happened. As employee Tenitia Cullum grabbed garbage bags from the rear foyer of a Tim Hortons in Rochester, NY, just before 11am on July 15, her 3-year-old son walked over the 2-foot-wide lid of a grease trap outside the restaurant's back door. Had the plastic lid been secured, Bryce Raynor might've taken another gulp of fresh air and headed back inside to wait out the remainder of his mother's shift, since her child care plans fell through at the last minute. Instead, the lid, missing all six screws, flipped open to admit him, then closed, trapping him inside a 500-gallon underground tank. It took another nine minutes for employees to figure out what had happened, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reports. And it takes less than 20 seconds for a child to drown.

Two months later, it's still unclear why the tank, originally fitted with a cast-iron lid, wasn't properly secured. Monroe County said "no clear standard existed for the ongoing inspection and enforcement of grease trap manhole covers in New York state" before it passed Bryce's Law earlier this month, per the Democrat & Chronicle. The municipal law orders grease traps to be covered with heavy or lockable lids, but it falls short of requiring grids of plastic designed to keep children and animals out of a grease trap's riser. The president of Polylok, one of several companies to offer what it calls the Universal Kid Catcher, says the product costs as little as $10. Yet one could've saved Cullum a world of hurt. "He was my only [child]," she tells the Democrat & Chronicle of Bryce, "and I don't think this pain will ever go away." (More on the tragedy here.)

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