Watson Lake child dies from falling soccer net

A five-year-old girl in Watson Lake was killed on Wednesday evening when the town's high school soccer net fell over, hitting her in the back of the head.

A five-year-old girl in Watson Lake was killed on Wednesday evening when the town’s high school soccer net fell over, hitting her in the back of the head.

Chief Coroner Kirsten Macdonald is not releasing the girl’s name at the request of the family, but the child’s father is Paul Amann, “a longtime resident of the community,” Macdonald’s Thursday press release says.

The five-year-old was playing with other children, under adult supervision, when the soccer net tipped over, the release says. And it does not appear that the children were playing on or hanging off the net itself when it fell, Macdonald added.

The young girl was brought to the Watson Lake Hospital where she was pronounced dead at about 8 p.m.

The net was a “movable” one, said Michele Royle, spokesperson for the Department of Education. Stories of such nets tipping over and killing children appear to be sadly common in other parts of the world.

In Australia, eight childhood deaths have been linked to movable nets since 1978. In 1990, a 13-year-old was left a paraplegic when a movable net tipped over and hit him. The nets in some of these incidents weighed nearly 180 kilograms, or 400 pounds.

In the United States, a non-profit organization called Anchored for Safety was established by one family that lost their child to a movable net tipping over. That group has traced 36 deaths and 56 injuries to moveable soccer nets in the U.S. between 1979 and 2011.

One year ago, the governor of Illinois signed “Zach’s Law.” The legislation is aimed at making sure movable nets are pinned down and properly counterweighted. It is named after six-year-old Zach Tran, who died in October 2003 when an 85-kilogram soccer net toppled and struck him from behind while he was practicing with his team.

Few details are available about the Watson Lake net’s design. Macdonald couldn’t say its dimensions, how much it weighed, or if it was secured to the ground.

The Department of Education has since removed the net in Watson Lake and is in the process of removing all movable nets from government-run parks and schools across the territory while a safety assessment is conducted, said Royle.

“Our hearts go out to the family and the community members who are touched by this tragedy,” said Royle. “The government of Yukon takes this incident very seriously and we’re co-operating with all official investigations.”

In a statement, Premier Darrell Pasloski extended his “profound sympathy” on behalf of the government.

“It is a sad day for Yukon to lose someone so young,” he said.

The Yukon’s NDP also offered its condolences through a press release on Thursday, and the Liberals did the same on Friday morning.

There has been no announcement yet about any funeral arrangements or whether any service will be open to the public.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at roxannes@yukon-news.com