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Soda Machines Should Be Fixes So They Can’t Tip Over, Doctor Says

November 10, 1988

CHICAGO (AP) _ Soda machines that tip over when rocked by people wanting their money back or a free drink can maim or kill and should be fixed so they won’t fall, an Army doctor said Thursday.

In a study published in Friday’s Journal of the American Medical Association, Michael Cosio of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington documented 11 deaths from falling soda machines.

One victim was found pinned to a wall with the soda machine resting on his neck. Death was presumed to be due to suffocation. Others were crushed to death or asphyxiated.

″If you look at it from the victims’ standpoint ... if they get hurt if a machine lands on them, they have a 20 (perent) to 25 percent chance that they get killed,″ Cosio said in a telephone interview.

Changes are needed to safeguard the public, he said, and a spokesman for the Consumer Product Safety Commission said the agency is investigating the problem.

″Few people would believe that a soda vending machine can be tipped over or that anyone would be foolish enough to even try to tip such a machine,″ Cosio wrote in the study. ″Not only can these machines be tipped over, but they can injure and even kill.″

Cosio looked at accidents involving 15 males at military installations overseas from July 1985 to September 1987. Three were killed, and 12 victims required hospitalization.

A follow-up of 32 more males, some civilians, documented eight more deaths, he said.

The victims all were shaking or rocking the machines, he said, some to shake loose a soda without paying, others ″because they’re angry at the machine″ for keeping their money and not dispensing a soda.

″I usually just bang on the front or jiggle the coin return and if it doesn’t work, I just walk away,″ Cosio said.

The machines generally weigh 800 pounds to 1,000 pounds, but when not anchored, they can be tipped over without much force, he said.

″We’ve even had a 10-year-old child who got killed.″

Survivors ″made the same or similar statement about the descent of the machine,″ he wrote. ″In essence, each victim said, ’It came down faster than I thought. I pushed up, but it was too heavy and it kept coming. I tried to get out of the way but it caught me.‴

Ken Giles, a spokesman for the federal consumer safety agency, said it is investigating, ″and yes, of course, we consider it a problem. We haven’t decided what to do about it.″

″It appears that these deaths and injuries are related to one brand,″ Giles said, but he declined to identify which one because of the continuing investigation.

″If we can pin it down as a brand-name specific problem, then we can ... work for repair or replacement or some other remedial measure,″ he said.

Cosio said machines that dispense free sodas when rocked should be removed from the market, and others should be secured to the floor or wall to help avert tipovers.

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