An East Bay, California family is sending out a safety warning to parents everywhere after the death of their 3-year-old daughter at her preschool.
On October 19, Macie Opperman passed away at Park Side Preschool when a recently installed play structure toppled over, pinning her to the ground. After the accident, state inspectors discovered the preschool did not notify regulators to inspect the new swing before allowing kids to play on it. The Department of Social Services issued two violations noting in their report “the play structure was not anchored to the ground, which allowed it to tip over” and that there was “no cushioning to absorb falls.”
Macie’s parents Jeremy and Leanne Opperman are now suing Park Side Preschool for wrongful death negligence.
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“The family wants people to know that this was preventable,” Opperman family attorney Conor Kelly told NBC Bay Area. “The preschool did not do its job to protect the health and safety of the children going to school there, and they want to do whatever they can to make sure this type of tragedy never happens again.”
An attorney for Park Side Preschool said she could not comment on the violations due to pending litigation but added, “We continue to work actively with the family and their counsel, and our church community continues to offer prayers for all concerned.”
Computer engineer Lucas Eckels told NBC Bay Area his son was on the playground when the accident occurred.
“I can’t imagine what it would be like to have your child die like this. It’s hard for me to imagine what my son experienced on the playground that day,” Eckels said. “I promised my son after we heard about Macie’s death we would not let him go back until we were convinced that they were doing everything they could for safety, and I’m still not convinced.”
After repeated requests, Eckels said he never received a satisfactory answer from Park Side explaining the safety violations and he pulled his son from the school permanently.
“I think they have been really deceptive,” Eckels said. “The school wasn’t doing a good job explaining.”
Eckels used his software skills to launch a website to inform other parents about the state’s findings following Macie’s death.
Eckels wants parents to know they should not hesitate to ask for inspection records if they see new playground equipment at their child’s school to make sure it was installed correctly and inspected.