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Manufacturer is recalling 7-million baby swings

Graco plans to add a restraint to ensure infants are better secured so they don't become tangled or fall out.

By JOUNICE L. NEALY

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 14, 2000


Following the deaths of six babies who became tangled in the safety belts of infant swings, Graco Children's Products is recalling 7-million swings for an upgrade with new restraint devices.

The new restraints will have a crotch strap attached to the waist belt and ensure that infants are securely fastened to the swing when the waist belt is buckled, Graco announced Thursday in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Besides the deaths, which occurred when the restraints were missing or misused, officials have documented about 200 infant falls from the swing. Some of the babies suffered serious injuries like fractures and concussions, and some were caught at the neck or chest when they fell.

"I won't put a child in it, now that I know it's dangerous, until I get it remedied," said Tonya Shaw, who cares for four children, including one of her own, in her St. Petersburg home.

The affected swings were made in 1997 or earlier. They are both battery-operated and wind-up models and can be either A-frame or open-top designs. Some of the swings' seats are removable, capable of being used as a carrier. The swings cost between $70 and $120 and were sold through major discount stores through January 1998, according to Graco officials.

The best way for consumers to identify whether swings need to be upgraded is to look at the tray and waist belt. If the tray is removable or hinged, and if there is a waist belt only, they need to contact Graco to receive the free upgrade they can install themselves.

"The new ones have the crotch strap which prevents the child from sliding down," said Nychelle Fleming, a spokeswoman for the safety commission.

Local parents, child care workers and consignment shop owners who sell used swings have sprung into action.

All Children's Hospital officials found a few of the Graco swings in their facilities and pulled them.

It's a Small World, a consignment shop in Seminole, has six of the recalled swings for sale.

"We'll either tell the customer about it, where they can order it themselves, or we'll go ahead" and order the new restraint, said owner Rachel Seaton. With prior recalls of other children's items, Seaton has ordered the upgraded parts and has kept them on hand for customers.

Consignment shop owners who keep abreast of recalls often pass on the safety information to customers. In fact, Graco is planning to send 18,000 notices to thrift shops and consignment stores.

"It seems like everything that's made for babies gets recalled," said Brenda West, co-owner of Happy Hippo Kids & Maternity consignment shop in Pinellas Park.

Last week, Fisher-Price recalled two infant products: 105,000 3-in-1 Cradle Swings with detachable carriers and 235,000 Bounce 'n Play Activity Domes.

The Happy Hippo owners keep abreast of recalls, especially of children's products, and have two of the recalled Graco swings at the shop. They will not sell the swings until they get the upgraded restraint.

"If I wouldn't put my kid in it, I won't sell it," West said.

Swings can provide much-needed relief for parents.

"I know we put our baby in it from day one. If it hadn't been safe, I would have been quite hysterical," said Mary LaRue Sweeney of St. Petersburg, who put her 9-month-old daughter, Bailey, in the swing until recently. "The babies will stay in there, and a lot of them fall asleep."

Gary Armistead, whose children were playing at North Shore Park playground Thursday afternoon, remembered using at least two Graco swing models with his children, who now are 5 and 10.

That they may have been dangerous was troublesome, he said.

"We used them a lot for both of them," said Armistead, a computer systems program manager visiting St. Petersburg from Raleigh, N.C.

Mindy Kleine, also of St. Petersburg, who babysits extensively for her nieces and nephews, said she was surprised that the piece of baby gear was potentially dangerous.

"It's a scary thought," she said.

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- Times staff writer Alicia Caldwell contributed to this report.

* * *

To see if your swing needs to be updated, call Graco's recall hot line at (800) 934-9082. You can also request a free replacement restraint through the company's Web site,

www.gracobaby.com, or write to Customer Affairs, Graco Children's Products Inc., Box 100, Elverson, PA 19520.

* * *

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