ORLAND PARK, Ill. (CBS) — A family on Wednesday afternoon was trying to make sense of the horrifying death of a 2-year-old girl at the Orland Hills Mall.
Two heavy temporary steel walls fell on Alexandra Martinez while she was playing inside the Akira shoe store at the mall, killing her Tuesday afternoon.
As CBS 2’s Vi Nguyen reported, Alexandra’s family was understandably very emotional. They said Alexandra was a happy girl who loved animals, and who would have celebrated her third birthday next month.
Police Chief Tim McCarthy said Alexandra and four siblings were playing in the store while their grandmother and aunt were shopping shortly before 2 p.m. Tuesday, when two temporary steel walls fell on the toddler.
“It appears that two temporary steel walls, approximately 8 feet high and 3 feet wide somehow fell over upon the victim,” he said.
McCarthy said the temporary walls weighed 75 to 100 pounds each, and caused “significant head injuries” when they fell on Alexandra.
Witnesses pulled the partitions off the girl, and a doctor and nurse who were at the mall began performing CPR before paramedics arrived and took Alexandra to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where she later died.
An autopsy determined that Alexandra died of craniocerebral injuries, and the manner of death was accidental, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.
“I think everything that could have been done was done under the circumstances,” McCarthy said. “Orland Fire, heroic efforts to try to save the child. Christ Hospital, heroic efforts to save the child, but the child succumbed to the head injuries.”
McCarthy, a grandfather of seven himself, choked up before encouraging other parents who might go shopping with their children, “watch your kids, and watch your grandkids.”
“In 47 years of law enforcement, there’s nothing much more tragic than the death of a child. We pray for the family.”
The chief said, although there were several 911 calls claiming a child had been climbing on the shelves, it’s unclear from surveillance video how the walls fell over.
“Video shows the children playing in the area, but until we get better video, enhance the video, we cannot specifically conclude at this time that one of the children may have pushed over the wall dividers,” he said.
McCarthy said the temporary walls were being stored in that area of the store, and were standing perpendicular to another temporary wall, and boxes of shoes stacked next to them.
“One child was on one side, the victim – Alexa – was on the other side. The two temporary walls came down,” he said.
The chief said the city’s building department visited the store after the incident, but has not informed him of any code violations. He also said, while police have visited every store in the mall multiple times for shoplifting calls, there have been no similar accidents in the past.
McCarthy said the shoe department at the Akira store will remain closed until a further inspection by the Orland Park building department.
CBS 2 called Akira for comment on Wednesday, but did not hear back.