Woman dies after she was found trapped in donation box in Toronto
A 35-year-old woman has died after she was found lodged in a clothing donation box in Toronto early Tuesday morning.
Bystanders heard the woman calling for help behind a building near Bloor Street and Dovercourt Road shortly before 2 a.m., police told CP24. When emergency crews arrived, half of the woman’s body was discovered sticking out of the box.
Police said the woman didn’t have any vital signs when firefighters cut open the donation box’s metal hinge to pull her from the bin. Attempts to resuscitate her were unsuccessful and she was pronounced dead at the scene.
Investigators said they don’t consider the woman’s death to be suspicious. They said they’re investigating it as “a death by misadventure.”
Identified by friends as Crystal Papineau, the woman was a client for many years at a women’s shelter called Sistering just a few blocks from the donation bin. Friends described her as a funny, compassionate woman and told CTV Toronto that she was a mother, though she did not live with her children.
“We just lost a sister,” said one friend named Mitra. “She was complicated, but she was a lovely woman. We all really got along. She knew everyone here and everyone knew her and she’s going to be deeply missed.”
To workers at the shelter like executive director Patricia O’Connell, the latest death is a reminder that the city is in need of better housing and mental health supports. “There’s no place for people to go and so people come and stay here sometimes literally for years sleeping on a mat on a concrete floor,” said O’Connell.
One woman who lives in the area told CP24 she regularly sees people going through the donation bins at night. “These bins have been around the buildings for a while and my mom lives up the street and we see it all the time,” she said.
Residents said the donation box the woman was trapped in was a relatively new addition to the neighbourhood. It has since been removed along with a similar donation bin near a neighbouring building.
Toronto Mayor John Tory described the death as a “very, very sad story” and said he’s directing staff to review the state of donation boxes in the city in light of the incident.
“I think it is extremely important – in light of what’s happened now – that we should examine the safety implications of these boxes,” he said. “They’re set up in a way to make it difficult to have access to the box, to the inside of the box, but obviously not safe enough.”
In a letter to the city's licensing committee, which was reviewing the donation bin bylaw, Tory asked the committee to include safety as part of that review and to speed up the process. “I believe the municipal government has a duty to make sure proper rules are in place to make sure the drop boxes in our city are safe,” he wrote.
It’s not the first time a person has died after being trapped in a clothing donation box in Canada. In the last four years, British Columbia has seen five people die after becoming stuck in the bins. The latest incident in that province occurred just over a week ago, when a 34-year-old man was discovered in a donation bin in West Vancouver. His death has prompted charitable organizations to call for the removal of the containers across the province. The municipality of West Vancouver has already sealed a number of bins as they look for safer alternatives to the bins.
Medical:— Toronto Police OPS (@TPSOperations) January 8, 2019
Dovercourt Rd/ Bloor St
- reports that a woman is inside of a clothing donation box
- woman appears to be injured and unconscious
- circumstances unknown
- Units are OS with @Torontomedics @Toronto_Fire trying to assist the woman@TPS14Div #GO42073^adc
There have also been deaths from donation bins in Alberta and Ontario in the last two years.
RangeView Fabricating, a Toronto-area company that produces such bins, is in the process of modifying bins for improved safety. Manager Brandon Agro told the Canadian Press that the bins most often involved in deaths are like mailboxes with an internal flap to prevent theft. They feature metal bars inside that create a “pinch point” when activated. The company has been advising charities to remove those bars until safer designs can be implemented.
Diabetes Canada announced Tuesday that by Jan. 18 it aims to have some 4,000 of its bins across the country “retrofitted or modified in an effort to prevent injury or death to those misusing or trying to gain entry” to the boxes.
Toronto Police Const. Genifferjit Sidhu said that deaths such as these can be horrific.
“Part of you gets stuck in there, say it be your neck or a fragile part of you," she said. "That would be painful, and it would not be quick."
With files from The Canadian Press, CP24 and CTV Toronto