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Weighted barbell kills 12-year-old emulating dad

It pays to make sure the safety pegs on a Smith machine are set up – and manufacturers should perhaps teach retailers to emphasis the safety of placing them properly -- even if the planned user doesn't expect to need them. A 12-year-old boy in Huntington Beach, Calif., died from neck and airway compression when he tried to heave his dad's 180-pound barbell. The weighted bar fell on his neck and he couldn't lift it off.


It pays to make sure the safety pegs on a Smith machine are set up – and manufacturers should perhaps teach retailers to emphasis the safety of placing them properly — even if the planned user doesn’t expect to need them. A 12-year-old boy in Huntington Beach, Calif., died from neck and airway compression when he tried to heave his dad’s 180-pound barbell. The weighted bar fell on his neck and he couldn’t lift it off.

In a tragic story reported by the Orange County (California) Register, Elijah Brown did everything his dad did – jog, fish, ski, surf and had even started lifting light weights.

But when he sat down Nov. 17 on his dad’s bench all alone on the set-up in the garage, the 180 pounds left racked by his dad, Thomas Brown, a construction worker, were too much for the 133-pound boy to handle.

The boy’s grandfather found him later lying motionless and trapped on the bench with the bar across his neck. He was pronounced dead later than evening. The boy’s father said the rules were clear on lifting weights and the boy knew better since he often watched his dad and asked questions. Still, the father told the paper he should have also taken the plates off the bar. The safety pegs on the Smith machine were not set for any catch, the paper reported.

The death is a rare incident, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Of 70,381 injuries involving weight-lifting and weight-lifting equipment last year, only six resulted in death. Of the total number of injuries, only 2,800 involved barbells or free-standing weights, a CPSC spokeswoman told the Orange Country Register.

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SNEWS® View: Perhaps manufacturers and retailers can assume everyone has good judgment and both kids and adults know better and know enough to engage all safety precautions. But kids are unpredictable, especially if they want to do everything dad does and dad makes lifting 180 pounds look so easy. This is a tragedy that could have been avoided. Although not the fault of a manufacturer or retailer, and the parent apparently was quite clear on do’s and don’ts, it never hurts for warnings to be clearer than needed. And it never hurts retailers to make extra certain a purchaser understands hazards – especially if there are kids in the house, kids around occasionally or even just in the neighborhood.