PHILADELPHIA — Authorities were investigating how a metal security grate detached and fell from the facade of an Italian ice shop Saturday afternoon, killing a 3-year-old girl.
The girl was at the Rita's Water Ice store in north Philadelphia where a fundraiser for a sorority and fraternity was underway when she was killed around 4:30 p.m., police and witnesses said.
Members of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity rushed to the girl's aid to get her out from under the awning and give her CPR, witnesses said. The girl was taken to Hahnemann University Hospital and died after arrival.
"It took about 20 to 30 men to get that awning off of the baby," witness Tracey Stanford told KYW-TV. "When they finally got it up off of her, she was just lying there, lifeless."
Officials with the Department of Licenses and Inspections were investigating how the grate fell.
L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams said in an emailed statement that there were no open violations at the store and no reported problems with the security door.
"The Department of Licenses and Inspections will only inspect these gates upon report of a complaint of an apparent defect," Williams said, noting that property owners are responsible for their maintenance, care and inspection.
Photos from the scene show the black metal gate lying on the sidewalk, pink balloons still tied to it in front of the shop's red and white striped awning. Several popped balloons appear trapped underneath the gate, which businesses typically roll down after hours to prevent crime.
"Our hearts and prayers go out to the child's family," said Linda Duke, a spokeswoman for Rita's Italian Ice, the shop's parent company. "Due to the current investigation we really cannot comment about the unfortunate incident."
Alison Brady, who lives across the street and saw the gate fall, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that stucco work had recently been done on the shop.
"It was almost like slow motion," she told the newspaper. "The gate was falling and people were screaming and it hit the ground and the little girl was there."