Claim: A father parks his truck atop a leaf pile containing his daughter, killing her.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, 2006]
Origins: What might appear to be naught but a cautionary tale extolling the importance of never assuming a pile of leaves doesn't contain a playful tot or two is in fact a fairly accurate account of an actual tragedy.
On the afternoon of 3 November 2004, in the town of Methuen, MA, 10-year-old Natalie Gravel and 8-year-old Merrideth Reed were playing in a pile of leaves left in the street outside their apartment building. Just before the accident, neighbors saw the girls laughing and shoveling leaves at each other with plastic trash-can lids.
The 36-year-old contractor had no idea anything was amiss until he got out of the truck. It was then he discovered the horribly injured girls, his own daughter and the daughter of the woman he lived with, both of whom had been crushed under his front and rear tires.
Natalie died a half-hour later at Holy Family Hospital of massive chest trauma. The last thing her father heard her say as she was loaded into the ambulance was "I can't breathe." Merrideth survived her injuries.
Another leaf pile tragedy played out in Forest Grove, Oregon, in October 2013 when two stepsisters were killed by a car that ran over the curbside pile of leaves in which they were playing:
Police said the girls were playing across the street from their house in a pile of leaves that extended over the curb and into the street. Abigail's father was taking pictures and had gone back into the house to put away the camera when he heard the crash, police said.
Capt. Mike Herb with the Forest Grove Police Department said the driver may not have realized the girls were struck. Monday was "Leaf Day" in the community and leaves were piled high along the streets.
A similar occurred in Australia in 1992. In that fatal mishap, two children who had been playing in a cardboard box in a vacant lot were crushed by a cement
While such unfortunate events are a rarity, that they happen at all should serve as reason enough to err on the side of caution where vehicles and items large enough to conceal children at play are concerned. Leaf piles attract kids, as do large cardboard boxes. Rather than assume such items are unoccupied and that children would know better than to play in harm's way, a prudent driver will avoid taking a vehicle across or into them.
Barbara "presumption of innocence" Mikkelson
Last updated: 24 October 2013
Allen, Rod. "Children Crushed by Truck." Courier-Mail. 23 April 1992.
Crane, Joyce. The Boston Globe. 18 November 2004 (p. 1). "Haunted by 'What If' After Fatal Accident, Mother Who Lost Custody Grieves Alone." Ranalli, Ralph. "Man's Truck Crushes Daughter, 10, in Leaf Pile." The Boston Globe. 5 November 2004 (p. B1). Smith, Emily E. "Records Say Driver Intentionally Drove Over Leaf Pile." The Oregonian. 23 October 2013. Herald Sun. "Children Crushed by Truck." 22 April 1992. KGW-TV [Portland, OR]. "Stepsisters Die After Hit by Vehicle in Forest Grove." 22 October 2013.