The Horror Of Avoidable Tragedies

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - January 11, 2006

I have not been moved to tears by a news story since 9/11. The West Virginia miners trapped by an explosion, facing virtual insurmountable odds of survival, were reported to be found alive. The jubilation expressed by friends and family was such a pleasure to see. I remember doing the dishes and watching our kitchen TV. I was smiling from ear to ear upon hearing such wonderful news. Then something went terribly wrong.

Later in the evening I was getting caught up on TV news when the news anchor reported something that didn’t immediately register. The miners were not found alive. Except for one, they were all found dead. Huh? What did she say? They were found dead, not alive. I was stunned.

I stayed with the coverage and heard the statements and explanations from the mining company’s president. His comments included, “Welcome to the worst day of my life.” The reason for the confusing message was attributed to a “miscommunication.” Miscommunication? What an understatement.

The details are still emerging as to who said what to whom and when and where. The Department of Labor is guaranteeing a full-fledged investigation into what really took place.

There will be enough finger pointing as to who was responsible for this crisis. We’ll get to that later. Suffice it to say, my thoughts are with the families who are dealing with this tragedy.

Another terrible story has emerged here at home. The death of 3-year-old Samuel Shpigler gave me chills. On Jan. 1, Samuel, his 4-and-a half-year-old sister and 6-year-old brother were left unattended on a hotel balcony. Samuel managed to squeeze between the railing and fell eight floors to his death. As a parent of children his age, I cannot fathom the grief his parents must be experiencing.

News reports are focusing on whether or not the balcony was safe. Was the hotel compliant to building code? What does the hotel have to say about this? Are hotels safe? These questions may inevitably be asked, but let’s get to the bottom line to this story. What in God’s name were the parents thinking letting these children play on a lanai more than 80 feet above the ground?

I repeat. The parents must be suffering immense pain. But this was preventable. The hotel did not force the parents to accept an eighth-floor room. The hotel did not instruct the parents to let their children on the balcony, and the hotel certainly did not allow the children on that lanai. It is the parents’ responsibility, wholly and in totality, for the safety of their kids. It is alarming that a toddler with two youngsters were allowed to roam outside the room.

I am not trying to be insensitive. I only want to remind you that the story is not what the hotel did or did not do. It was the decisions and actions of the parents that led to this tragedy which would not have happened if they simply protected that little boy.

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