Trapped between metal gates and struggling to breathe, five-year-old Benjamin Edmands looked at his mum and said “I don’t want to die”.
It happened ten years ago, but Erica Edmands remembers it like it was yesterday.
She had piled three kids into the car but had left something inside her house – so told them to sit tight and ran inside, keys in hand.
It was a scream from her daughter that first sounded the alarm.
“I immediately knew something was wrong,” Kidsafe Victoria president Ms Edmands says.
And she was right, Ben had got himself out of the car and taken the remote control for the front gate and taken himself for a ride.
But he became jammed between the seven metre gate and its large metal frame.
“It had continued to close as he was standing on it and it got stuck on his hips, lower ribs and lungs and we couldn’t move it,” she said.
“He was crying, his sister was screaming and we had people everywhere trying to move the gate.”
While they waited for the fire brigade and ambulance to arrive, it was Ms Edmands’ then six-year-old’s son calmness in chaos that still astounds her.
He ran inside and brought back a bottle of olive oil, hoping it would help slide his brother free.
Unfortunately it didn’t work and the fire brigade and paramedics freed Benjamin after a long and arduous task.
“I still remember Ben looking up at me asking if he was going to die, and saying ‘I don’t want to die, I can’t breathe’,” Ms Edmands said.
The emergency services eventually got him out but they had to be careful because they didn’t know if he had any internal injuries – luckily for all involved, he didn’t.
Benjamin’s experience is what led to Ms Edmands’ affiliation with Kidsafe Victoria.
A lawyer by trade, she describes herself as a sensitive and capable parent – who made a few mistakes and she wanted to help make sure no one else went through what her family did.
By her own admission, she should have never left the kids in the car, and the front gate should have had a sensor on it in case anything became stuck while it was closing.
“The only reason he is alive is because he stood on the last two bars – the gate didn’t stop because he was wedged, it stopped because it had nowhere else to go… we nearly lost him,” she said.
In the last decade, Ms Edmands has only spoken about that day a handful of times and still gets emotional about it.
She still sees Ben’s face and hears him telling her he didn’t want to die.
“He was just five and had his whole life ahead of him – we were lucky, but it was that 30 seconds that could have ended in tragedy,” she said.
“I’m very lucky – I consider myself blessed.”
Kidsafe Victoria provides advice and tools of how to ensure you can provide a safe environment for your children. Their website has useful links and checklists for home, water and road safety and more.