An 18-month-old girl died when she slipped and fell into a plastic bucket that was partially filled with water, at Sithalapakkam near Tambaram on Monday.

According to eye-witnesses, the child, Sophiya, was struggling to breathe after she was lifted out of the bucket, and died while she was being rushed to a government hospital.

Sophiya’s parents, Bhavani, a homemaker, and Ranjith, a mini cargo lorry driver, had moved to Indra Nagar, Sithalapakkam, only one month ago. They had been living in Mylapore previously. Bhavani’s cousins — Maragatham and Valarmathi — lived in the area, and this prompted the couple’s move, as they needed support from their family for Sophiya, who had Down syndrome.

For the past month Sophiya had been under the care of her aunts, Maragatham and Valarmathi. While Ranjith would go for work, taking their elder child – Logeshwaran to school in Mylapore, Bhavani would stay back in their rented home. 

On Monday, Sophiya was at her aunt’s house, which is close to her parents’ home. According to her cousins, Sophiya was very active and would run towards the gate or try and climb the stairs leading to the terrace. Her aunts always kept an eye on her. When they had work in the kitchen or elsewhere, they would use a piece of soft cloth to tie Sophiya to a window grille inside the house.

Around 10 a.m. on Monday, when Maragatham was preparing breakfast for Sophiya, the child managed to pull her hand free of the cloth and ran outside. “There was a noise and when we rushed to the portico of the house, we saw her head inside the plastic bucket with her legs were upright,” Maragatham said.

The women and their neighbours raised an alarm and Bhavani, too rushed to the spot. The girl was rushed to a private clinic in Sithalapakkam, where the staff said they could do nothing. Bhavani then took her daughter to the Tambaram Taluk Government Hospital in Chromepet, where she was pronounced dead on arrival.

The plastic bucket can store about 20 litres of water. The family however, said that on Monday, there had been very little water in it.

Police said after she fell into the bucket, water had entered the child’s lungs.

Neighbours said had there been adequate emergency services available locally, Sophiya might have been saved.

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