Boy, 4, died after getting head stuck during first night in new bed

Ethan Wade's mother described her son as having an infectious laugh. (SWNS)
Ethan Wade's mother described her son as having an infectious laugh. (SWNS)

A four-year-old boy died after his head became lodged in a new bed the first night he slept in it, an inquest has heard.

Ethan Wade was discovered by his father in July 2021 in his new medical bed at their home the following morning. The specialist Olaf bed was installed at the home in Chatham, Kent due to Ethan having cerebral palsy. He was also non-verbal and suffered reflux and global development delay as well as mobility issues.

His father found him face down, unresponsive, and “floppy”, the family quickly rang 999 and administered CPR. When paramedics discovered a heartbeat he was taken to Medway Maritime Hospital accompanied by his mother Jessica Gardiner. He died four days later.

Home Office forensic pathologist Dr Virginia Fitzpatrick-Swallow recorded the cause of death as hypoxia, a lack of oxygen and blood flow to the brain and consistent with entrapment. She noted the nose and mouth had been covered resulting in a “degree of smothering” and added: “There was no underlying independent, natural disease that would explain respiratory arrest.”

A police officer who attended the scene wearing body-worn video recorded Wade’s father where he is heard to say that Ethan’s younger sibling, with whom he shared the room, had been known to 'play' with buttons which, on cross-examination by counsel, he “did not recall” saying.

Ethan Wade was also non-verbal and suffered reflux and global development delay. (SWNS)
Ethan Wade was also non-verbal and suffered reflux and global development delay. (SWNS)

No evidence of criminality was reported and the bed was removed the next day, it was later inspected and no defects were found. The inquiry heard how safety checks were carried out after it was installed and both parents had experience with similar models.

Questions were raised over the key used to operate the bed. The inquiry heard how with their previous specialist bed the parents kept the key on top of a wardrobe out of reach of the children. The remote for the newly-delivered Olaf was hung over the top of the rail and neither of the parents could recall seeing the key.

During their evidence, the parents claimed they were promised a new bed, but the one provided was 10-years-old, dirty and had Paw Patrol stickers on it. They also said a user manual was not left behind.

Speaking to the inquiry co-owner of Theraposture who installed the bed said in the 20 years he had been dealing with the Olaf bed it had never been subject to a recall.

More South and South East stories - click above
More South and South East stories - click above

Also giving evidence was Detective Inspector Sulling Chan who went to the home address on the morning of the incident. She told the inquiry she could not recall seeing the key for the bed but also said she was not looking for it at the time. Assured that a crime had not been committed and no third party was involved, she came away with three hypotheses including mechanical error, natural causes or user error – the first two had been ruled out.

She told the court: “There was no evidence for an alternative explanation.”

Det Insp Chan was present at the bed's second inspection in 2023 with the parents. She told the inquiry she could see the key clearly attached to the chain on the remote control and the bed was in good working order.

Ethan and his twin, who died three days after birth, were born prematurely at 27 weeks and suffered several serious medical conditions. After spending three and a half months in a specialist baby care unit, Ethan was allowed home under the care of physios and occupational therapists employed by Medway Community Healthcare.

After the jury reached its conclusion, assistant coroner Catherine Wood said: “I am truly sorry for your loss and hope the inquest process has helped answer some of your questions and it’s brought you some closure.”

Gardiner said after the verdict about how Ethan’s condition never held him back and had a contagious laugh. Paying tribute to her son, she said: “Ethan was the light and soul of our lives. He was such a happy-go-lucky boy, always had a smile on his face that made you smile.”

How many people have cerebral palsy in the UK?

Cerebral palsy affects around 1 in 400 children in the UK, equalling around 1,700 diagnoses a year. It is a condition that affects muscle control and movement and has several causes, around 40% of children with cerebral palsy were born prematurely.

Other causes include infection in the early part of pregnancy, lack of oxygen to the brain or abnormal brain development. It can lead to children struggling with movement often appearing stiff or floppy, they may also struggle to reach development milestones.

There is no cure for cerebral palsy but physiotherapy and other medical support can help people be more independent.

Read more: