Two lawsuits have been filed following the tragic deaths of two boys in separate automatic garage door accidents.
Seven-year-old Dedric “D.T.” Holt and 6-year-old Jacob Alexander Joseph both died after they got stuck in automated gates in the garage of their apartment complexes, according to reports.
Dedric was playing with his cousins in the parking garage of the Metro Development and Housing Agency apartments near the 800 block of South Sixth Street on June 11, 2020, in Nashville, Tennessee when the children began turning the garage door switch on and off.
The gate rolled up with Dedric caught in the gate, crushing his head and body inside. He was on life support at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt until July 1 with severe anoxic brain damage before the decision was made to remove him from life support to end his suffering.
Executive Director of the Metro Development and Housing Agency, Jim Harbison, released a statement following Dedric’s death.
“Ever since the tragic accident on June 11, MDHA staff have been hoping and praying that Dedric would make a full recovery,” Harbison told the Nashville Tennessean. “We are absolutely heartbroken by this morning’s devastating news. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and all who knew and loved him, including many of our staff.”
Jacob died on June 4, 2021, after the garage gate he was playing on at his apartment complex in Kissimmee, Florida, rolled up. Jacob was holding onto the automated gate when it rolled up.
Attorneys for the family said that no sound alarms or sensors shut the gate down and Jacob was caught in the gate. A witness reportedly tried to rescue the 6-year-old to no avail.
“I’m going to go through this for a while,” Douglas Skogland told WESH2. “It comes and goes. I’ve seen some stuff, but this was a 6-year-old kid.”
Jacob was also placed on life support but ultimately did not survive.
President of the International Door Association Brenton Cheney says his organization helps to prevent such accidents by making safety standards such as a fail-safe way to stop accidents as the gate closes.
Cheney told WESH2 every gate should have at least one fail-safe like a sensor that would stop the gate from closing on a person or object. However, there are no requirements to stop the gate if something gets trapped as the gate rolls up, which is what happened to Dedric and Jacob.
“And that would either be a set of photo eyes down at the bottom, which is an infrared beam that goes across the bottom of the opening,” Cheney said. “There are a number of currently available safety devices that could fairly easily be adapted to take care of the safety features in an open position and open cycle. And many manufacturers already offer those. It’s just not a requirement.”
For Dedric’s lawsuit, the family’s attorneys argue that the gate company failed to install the control switch at the recommended height. The garage door company filed a motion to dismiss the case, but the judge has yet to rule.
Dedric’s aunt, Charkia Summers, told WESH2 News that she hopes no other child goes through what her nephew went through.
“I hope no other kid goes through, or no other family, has to go through the same situation,” said Summers. “Because it’s senseless.”
“We won’t be the first, second, or the last people if they don’t put some kind of safety, some kind of safety tools in place,” Summers added.
In Jacob’s case, the defendants are denying any wrongdoing and claim they are not responsible for the accident.
“The incident involving Jacob Alexander Joseph was tragic and unfortunate,” said the defendants, adding that they “adamantly dispute” any liability.