PITTSBURGH -- In what has become an almost routine event, a two-year-old child crawled inside the vending chute of an oversized claw machine in early December. The child remained happily in the company of the stuffed animals for 15 minutes until firefighters arrived and pried the cabinet open, returning the little girl to her worried mother.
This time it happened in the food court of a shopping mall in Robinson Township in Allegheny County. The mother said she was seated at a table in the food court, turned her head for just a few seconds, and when she glanced back at her child she saw the girl had crawled inside the machine.
Once members of the nearby Moon Run Volunteer Fire Dept. arrived, it took firefighters just a few seconds to open the crane machine. They deployed a pick-axe type tool that can also be used to break into locked automobiles.
A local TV news report captured much of the story. The vendor and brand of machine were not identified by the local media, but the name Max Claw can briefly be seen on the side of the cabinet at one point during a video newscast. After the rescue, the vendor removed the machine from the mall, an event that was also captured on video. [see video]
The story appeared in print publications as far away as the United Kingdom. But this type of incident has occurred several times before in the U.S. -- in the Midwest and the South -- and also overseas, as far afield as Australia. In fact, "child trapped in vending machine" has spurred its own YouTube genre with at least six separate events captured and posted in digital videos.
In some of the videos, parents or friends of the trapped youngsters are heard laughing at the children's predicament. But not all of the reactions are so upbeat. A social networking news-sharing website highlighted the latest event in Pennsylvania under the headline: "Toddler Rescued From Toy Crane Machine: Is Your Child's Safety At Risk?" [see story]
The writer pointed out that the scenario might not end so happily next time.