Real Stories

Toddler’s Septic Pit Death: A Devastated Mum’s Warning

As acclaimed writer, Joan Didion said, tragedy seems to occur in “the ordinary instant”.

For Victorian mum, Amanpreet, life sadly changed on an ordinary “bright and brisk day in March” when her sweet three-year-old, Nihal, went missing at a family friend’s housewarming party. After a frantic search, Nihal was found in a septic pit. The little boy had stepped on an unsecured lid of a septic tank and, heartbreakingly, drowned.

Through the grief of losing her son in a terrible tragedy, Amanpreet has shared her story to warn others and ensure something like this doesn’t happen to another family.

A frantic search and devastating find

On March 19th of this year, Amanpreet was at the housewarming party, absorbed in feeding her seven-month-old when her husband asked her where Nihal was.

The concerned mum immediately went into panic mode as she hadn’t seen her toddler in a while.

Although her husband tried to calm her down, assuming Nihal was running around playing somewhere, her motherly instinct told her something was amiss.

A frantic search for the toddler ensued without success until another child ran across the septic pit’s lid and got his foot stuck. This prompted one of the adults to open the lid. There they spotted Nihal’s jumper.

In disbelief and hoping for the best, the distraught mum told 9 News,

I kept shouting, ‘No, it’s not Nihal. It’s just his jumper.’ But then a man pulled out the jumper, and it was my son.”

Nihal had stepped on an unsecured septic tank lid and fallen in. Typically found in the backyards of rural and older homes, septic tanks are underground chambers used for sewage and wastewater. The pits usually feature a solid lid that can be moved, broken, or unsecured.

septic tank death - toddler drowns in septic pit
Source: Nine

I had never heard of a septic pit before that day. I didn’t know what it was,” she said.

Septic pit warning

In the past 18 months, three toddler deaths have occurred across Australia due to septic pit accidents, with several others being near misses with an adult thankfully being around to rescue them.

Earlier this year, on February 29th, a two-year-old fell into a septic pit in the remote community of Mt. Liebig in the Northern Territory. The toddler was rushed in “critical, but stable condition” to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide. Sadly, the child died five days later.

In January, another little boy, Tiwanaku Taiapa fell into a septic tank at a rented rural property in Koah, QLD and also drowned.

An urgent warning for those with septic tanks on their properties

According to Yahoo News, NT WorkForce recently warned workplaces in an online statement,

Unsecured or fragile septic tanks are a major hazard if access to the lid is not limited or controlled. There is a risk of a fatal incident occurring if someone falls into a septic tank. This risk is significantly higher if the person is a young child.”

Kidsafe Victoria Chief Executive Officer, Melanie Courtney said a possible solution is to install ‘safety screens’ over each tank in Australia.

It’s a very simple mechanism that means if the lid fails the child will not fall through,” she said.“(We are) urging all homeowners that do have a septic pit on their property to check their system, check their lid and make sure it’s inaccessible to children.”

Kidsafe is also calling for mandatory certificates of compliance for all septic systems when a property is sold or leased, similar to those required for swimming pools, to ensure they are safe and working properly.

A mum’s wish

Unaware of the existence or dangers of septic pits, Amanpreet remembers having a conversation with Nihal regarding pool safety since the party was held at a home with a swimming pool and a pond. She didn’t even think about the dangers of a septic tank.

“We didn’t get time to say goodbye,” the devastated mum said.

Amanpreet says her wish is that her “story can help to prevent these accidents”  .

Additional backyard safety

There’s a lot of safety advice surrounding pools and drowning but many of us don’t realise that drownings can occur even in very little water. Wading pools, water fountains, open drains, dams, water tanks and even large eskies can pose a risk.

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Avatar of Gloria Ramirez

Gloria Ruby Ramirez is a writer, mother, and lover of coffee, twinkle lights, and rain who believes in the magical power of words. She is passionate about parenting, mental health, and the environment. She is a former agricultural microbiologist/plant pathologist with a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from Arizona State University. Born in the desert of northern Mexico, she is mum to her beautifully energetic son and Shih Tzu, Gerty. When not writing, Gloria can be found spending time with her son and family, reading, or embroidering.

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