Shattered table, shattered nerves

Baby narrowly avoids flying glass

Published on June 1, 2009
Hanna Maddox (left), her niece Corine Cunningham and 11-month-old great niece Emily Cunningham sit around the new patio table Maddox purchased after her glass table "exploded" last week. Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

The Maddox family was enjoying a lazy afternoon on their patio deck in Mount Pearl 10 days ago, when their peace and quiet was literally shattered.

Hanna Maddox had visitors. Her niece, Corine Cunningham, had dropped by with her baby, and they were all on the back patio. Cunningham was chasing around eleven-month old Emily.

The Maddox family was enjoying a lazy afternoon on their patio deck in Mount Pearl 10 days ago, when their peace and quiet was literally shattered.

Hanna Maddox had visitors. Her niece, Corine Cunningham, had dropped by with her baby, and they were all on the back patio. Cunningham was chasing around eleven-month old Emily.

The baby had just crawled out from under the glass patio table when a gust of wind made the table's umbrella billow slightly.

"Emily had just left the table to go over and get a toy when the table shattered. Glass went everywhere," said Cunningham.

"The only sound I remember was a poof and glass went into a million pieces. It actually cut my aunt's feet," she said.

"She was sitting next to the table and I was away following Emily around."

"It just exploded," said Maddox. "The noise I'll never forget. It just went boom."

Maddox's children bought the table for her last summer as a gift. The family said they had heard news reports that some glass patio tables shatter and can be dangerous. They say they asked Wal-Mart staff if the table was safe. The family said Wal-Mart told them it was because the glass is tempered, meaning it breaks into pieces with rounded edges, like a car windshield.

However, that didn't happen.

"Some of it was (bevelled) and some of it was like shards. It was a combination of both. There were little shards everywhere, and it was the kind that stuck into your skin," said Cunningham. "The glass that I picked out of my aunt's feet were actually stuck into her skin."

"It cut the bottoms of my feet," said Maddox.

Maddox told Cunningham - who wasn't injured - to grab Emily, who was unhurt. Maddox and Cunningham said it was a frightening experience.

"There was so much force we had to get down with eyebrow tweezers and pick the glass out of the wood of the patio. There are gouges in my patio," said Maddox.

It took the family many hours over several days to clean up all the glass. But the mess isn't what worries them. It was the close call with Emily.

"If she had to be where she was three seconds earlier, we would have had to take her to the hospital. I'm convinced she would have been seriously hurt. She would have been covered in glass. It was pure luck that she crawled out in time."

Maddox returned the frame and chairs to Wal-Mart on Stavanger Drive in St. John's. The store manager took it back without question and gave Maddox and in-store credit, which she used to buy a new patio set that does not have a glass top.

But the story doesn't end there. Days later, Maddox spotted a glass patio set similar to the one that shattered advertised in a recent Wal-Mart flyer.

"They're still selling them, and I don't think they should be selling them," said Maddox.

Wal-Mart Canada told The Telegram the patio set advertised isn't the same one that exploded.

"The patio set advertised in our flyer, while it looks similar, is actually a different model than the one in question, which was on old model," said Andrew Pelletier, vice-president, corporate Affairs.

Pelletier said the model that shattered on Maddox is no longer sold at Wal-Mart stores. He also said Wal-Mart has not received any other reports of any shattered glass-topped patio tables.

"So it looks on the surface like a unique isolated incident. If there was reason to stop selling an item, we wouldn't hesitate to do that and we've done that in many cases. At this point given what we're hearing it does look like a unique, strange and bizarre incident. But there's enough here to continue to review it."

Pelletier said the currently advertised glass model is safe because it has tempered glass. Maddox said she's heard that before.

"I don't think they should sell any glass tables. They told me at Wal-Mart that maybe the extreme temperatures and the wind causes it, but then they shouldn't be selling them in Newfoundland."