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I-TEAM finds potential dangers at parks after Jacksonville boy's death

Child safety advocate points out what parents should look out for at city parks

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After a 10-year-old boy died in a tragic accident at a Northwest Jacksonville park, the I-TEAM looked into potential dangers at city parks. 

Nahshon Green died Friday night after becoming tangled in the chains of a swing at Charles Clark park, police said.

On Monday, the I-TEAM stopped by several parks to see how safe they are, and went to one park in San Marco with a child safety advocate.

"With any park and the equipment, you have to look to make sure it is not in disrepair," said Cynthia Dennis with Safe Kids Northeast Florida, a group from Wolfson Children's Hospital that promotes the prevention of childhood injuries.

Dennis explained the type of things to look for when children are playing in city parks. 

"The height of the swings for the age of the child," she said. "Making sure there are no broken pieces that they can get cut on. That happens a lot."

Most park injuries come from children falling down. What happened last week at Charles Clark Park is rare, but still very concerning for parents and guardians, including Rena Smith, who was watching her two grandchildren at the park.

"I've just never heard of anything like that ever happening at a park," Smith said. "I feel quite shocked. because I feel all the parks are quite safe. I never worry about the equipment."

There have been a lot of recommendations on how to make playgrounds safer, but one thing many people have suggested is that the city should consider covering the chains of the swings with a plastic covering. That way, people wouldn't be able to bend the chain. They could still use the swingset, but there wouldn't the issue of the chain wrapping around somebody's neck.

Dennis pointed out other things parents need to watch for at parks, including the height of a slide.

"That is a very tall slide for those little kids," Dennis said at the park in San Marco. "That one right over here, it is a metal slide. It gets hot, that's another thing. These parents and grandparents are standing right there, actively supervising -- as they should."

Dennis said supervision is key, and can help avoid accidents, particularly with swings.

"Look at how far the swing is coming out. But mom is right there," she said. "But if a child wanders in front of that, they’re going to get hit."

Dennis said it's not only park equipment that parents needs to worry about, but also what children are wearing. She said drawstrings and helmet straps can get caught and cause serious problems.

The I-TEAM checked with the city to see whether any changes are planned and to find out how many parks have swings similar to the ones at Charles Clark Park, asking if the swings are inspected and if there's soft material, such as mulch or sand, under them. As of Monday afternoon, the city had not sent a response. 

The swings at Charles Clark Park have been removed since Nahshon's death. 

One parent told the I-TEAM that she was upset by the boy's death, but hopes it does not keep children away from parks, saying exercise is important to prevent other childhood problems, such as obesity.


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