FRANKLIN, Mass. -- A brother and sister under age 10 apparently got trapped inside a chest in their Massachusetts home and died, authorities said Monday.
Police responded to the Franklin home at about 8 p.m. Sunday after family members found the children together inside the hope chest, which had a lid that could only be opened from the outside. The children were taken to hospitals but did not survive.
David Traub, a spokesman for Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey, confirmed the deaths. He said multiple family members, including an adult, were in the house at the time. He would not say whether the adult was a parent of the children.
The chest was close to a television that had the volume turned up, Traub said.
Authorities said the deaths appear to be accidental, and relatives are cooperating with investigators.
Traub said the hope chest was “an older type” made by Lane Furniture and was purchased by the family secondhand more than a decade ago.
In 1996, Lane recalled 12 million cedar chests with lids that automatically latch shut after receiving reports of six children suffocating inside. In 2000, Lane — in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission — said it was calling for a renewed search for the chests to replace their locks after becoming aware of another suffocation death and two near fatalities.
Traub said it was not immediately clear if the chest owned by the family was included in that recall. The recall covered all Lane and Virginia Maid brand cedar chests manufactured between 1912 and 1987.
Messages left at the headquarters of Heritage Home Group, which now owns Lane, were not immediately returned Monday.
A message on Lane’s website says it has provided new locks free of charge that don’t automatically latch when the lid is closed. The company said chests made after 1987 have the new safety locks.
Autopsies were scheduled, and the results will show “if the medical information corresponds with the narrative as it’s emerged,” Traub said.
No names were released.
No one appeared to be inside the family’s ranch-style home Monday morning. Several children’s bicycles were scattered in the backyard, along with a boy’s truck and a plastic sled. Two bouquets of flowers and two stuffed animals — a white kitten and a brown dog — had been left on the front steps.
Both children attended an elementary school in town. School officials informed parents of the children’s deaths and said counselors are available to students and staff.
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