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Automatic Door Traps, Kills Boy, 7 : Youngster Was Leaving Garage at Fullerton Home

April 20, 1985|GARY JARLSON | Times Staff Writer

A 7-year-old Fullerton boy was killed Friday morning when he became trapped under a closing automatic garage door at the house where he lived, police said.

James Lee was pinned by the neck when he apparently tried to crawl under the door before it slammed shut, and is believed to have died of asphyxiation, authorities said.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday April 24, 1985 Orange County Edition Part 1 Page 2 Column 1 Metro Desk 1 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
A story in Saturday's edition on a Fullerton boy who was killed when he became trapped under a closing garage door incorrectly identified the automatic garage door opener as a Holmes Hardware Model 1100. The mechanism was a Safeguard, model Californian.

Officers said the boy was leaving home to catch a school bus shortly before 8 a.m. and was alone in the house at the time. His father, Keun Lee, had left for his job in Downey a half hour earlier; the boy's mother and a younger sister are on vacation in Korea.

"As we understand it, he was supposed to use a remote control that stays inside the garage and he was told he had plenty of time to get out," said Senior Officer Gary Miller. "It's only speculation now, but from the way his body was, with the feet outside the garage and the head inside, it appears he was trying to get back inside for some reason. Maybe he had forgotten something."

Found by Passers-By

Miller said two women who were passing by discovered the boy under the door and screamed for help. The women were joined by another woman and a man, and together they forced the 180-pound door open.

Resuscitation efforts of the passers-by and paramedics failed to revive the boy. He was taken to St. Jude Hospital in Fullerton, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

A neighbor of the Lees described James as an "outgoing and friendly boy" who liked to play in the park across the street. The entire family had been overseas and the father and his son had returned home just last Sunday, the neighbor said.

Another neighbor said a baby sitter is usually on hand in the morning to operate the garage door and would watch the boy until he had boarded the school bus, which stops in front of the house.

Miller said it could not be immediately determined whether any safety devices on the door opener, a Holmes Hardware 1100, malfunctioned, because the unit was damaged when it was forced open by those trying to rescue the boy.

There are no government regulations covering automatic garage door openers, but Underwriters Laboratories of Chicago, before it would recommend an opener, began in 1975 to require a safety system that would stop and then reverse the door's motion if it struck an obstacle down to within two inches of the ground. That standard was revised to one inch in 1983. The safety devices must also be able to work through 100,000 open-close cycles, the equivalent of 20 years' use, according to industry members.

It is not mandatory for a manufacturer to obtain approval of its products from the private testing firm. Holmes-Halley Industries has not sought a UL listing, according to Terry L. Blubaugh, a vice president of a subsidiary of the firm who was attending a garage door industry convention in San Diego on Friday. Firm representatives said they did not know if the unit in the Lees' had the reversing safety system on it.

The neighbors said the garage door openers had been offered as an option by the developer of the tract, which was built after 1975.

Frank S. Fitzgerald, president of the Garage Door Council, a trade group, said in San Diego on Friday that his organization has an ongoing educational campaign to tell consumers that only adults should handle the controls and that, since the garage door "is the heaviest moving object in a house," it should be carefully installed and maintained.

Times staff writers Steve Tripoli and Mark I. Pinsky contributed to this story.

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