CHICAGO — Before heading off to Minnesota more than a week ago, Adam Hadjis leaned over and kissed his 4-year-old daughter goodbye as she slept. It would be the last time he saw her alive.
Gianna was playing by herself over the weekend when a large TV tipped and fell off a table, landing on the little girl’s body, according to the family.
“They said her skull was severely crushed, and she had a massive bruise on the bridge of her nose,” Hadjis said Monday.
The death comes less than three months after two similar fatalities — a 3-year-old Chicago girl who had been playing with her brother and a cousin when a TV tipped over, and a 6-year-old boy in Arlington Heights, Ill., who reached for something on top of the screen, causing the TV to fall.
Such accidents accounted for deaths of 169 children nationwide over the last decade, according to a 2010 report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, and have increasingly attracted the attention of everyone from pediatricians to consumer groups.
Gianna had visited her father at his home in Iowa after Christmas, then returned to University Park, where her mother lived with her boyfriend. On Sunday morning, Hadjis said he had just cooked breakfast when the girl’s mother called.
“I could hear the ambulance sirens in the background,” he said.
On Sunday morning, Gianna, too, had just finished breakfast and asked to go downstairs to play. As her mother walked back upstairs, she heard a loud crash and ran to check on Gianna. The older, tube TV — which her dad estimated to weigh between 50 and 70 pounds with a 32-inch screen — had fallen off a table and landed on the little girl, he said.
She was rushed to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where she underwent surgery to relieve pressure from her brain, said her father. He immediately headed to the hospital, arriving at 3:50 p.m., one hour after she was pronounced dead.
“One minute she’s there full of life, the next minute she’s gone,” Hadjis said.
She died from “crushing cranial cerebral injuries,” according to the Cook County medical examiner. The death was ruled an accident. University Park police said their preliminary investigation showed no foul play or negligence, Chief Mel Davis said.
“Our deepest and sincere condolences are extended to the family of Gianna Hadjis,” Davis said.
Hadjis said he met Gianna’s mother while they both served in the Marines. They live apart but share custody of the girl.
“Almost since the day she was born, right down the middle,” he said. “We always had good communication.”
In University Park, Gianna’s mother and boyfriend had purchased a new, flat-screen TV, moving the older model to the basement, Hadjis said. It sat on a round table in a corner of the basement, which her dad called “Gianna’s little hangout,” out of view from the top level of the home.
Moving older, bulkier TVs is a common scenario. They often go into playrooms, dens and bedrooms, where they sit on dressers, tables and shelves that are not as secure, posing a hazard, expert said.
On Nov. 8, Shaniya Singleton, 3, was killed after a TV fell in her Englewood home as she played with her 5-year-old brother and 1-year-old sister. Ten days earlier, Karl Clermont, 6, was killed when a 36-inch television fell on him in Arlington Heights.
“The most important thing is to warn other people with children that if they own a television that is unstable they can be putting their child at risk,” Hadjis said.
Consumers are getting the message, said Steve Shapiro, general manager at Abt Electronics and Appliances in Glenview. Sales of “anti-tip” safety straps are averaging about 50 a month, he said.
Another option: To get rid of the old TVs, which can weigh as much as 300 pounds, Shapiro said, adding that they make sure they are properly recycled.
“There’s definitely been more inquiries since the last accident,” he said. “People are waking up.”
Now, Gianna’s family is grappling to find meaning in her death. On Monday, they received a call about a child Gianna’s age who was in need of a heart, her father said.