The president and CEO of Toronto Community Housing (TCH) says his organization is reviewing the installation of air conditioners at all TCH properties after a two-year-old girl was fatally struck by a unit that fell from a Scarborough apartment.
“One of the first priorities is to understand what exactly occurred in this situation and how did this event take place so that we can learn from it and ensure that we put procedures in place to prevent this type of thing in the future,” Kevin Marshman told Global News Wednesday afternoon.
“The second thing … is we are doing an inventory of the air conditioning units that we have so we can have an action plan again to address situations to stop this from happening in the future.”
The review comes after emergency crews were called to a TCH apartment building on Lawrence Avenue East, east of Mossbank Drive and near Scarborough Golf Club Road, Monday afternoon.
Police said Crystal Mirogho’s mother was returning home with her three young children after picking two of them up from school when an air conditioning unit fell from an eighth floor apartment and hit Crystal as she was in her stroller. Toronto Paramedics rushed Crystal to the Hospital for Sick Children with a police escort where she was later pronounced dead.
Officers said they are conducting a forensic investigation and are looking for any surveillance video or witnesses “to ensure we know exactly what happened,” adding that preliminary information suggests the incident was a “tragic accident.”
Marshman said the review into the air conditioners was launched as a direct result of Monday’s incident. It’s not clear when the findings will be presented.
“I’m personally saddened by this very tragic event. The loss of their daughter Crystal must be devastating and all of us at TCH have a lot of concern around that i think our investigation will disclose things to us,” he said.
However, in 2007 a window air conditioner replacement program study was done for TCH. It found “for the most part, the air conditioners inspected were not properly installed.”
“There is a safety issue as the air conditioners could potentially fall out of windows,” the report said.
Recommendations at the time called air conditioning units to be rented through TCH to ensure the units are properly installed or for certain units to be purchased through TCH that can be easily installed and removed.
TCH told Global News it doesn’t install or remove air conditioners owned by tenants. But in situations where the organization installs air conditioners, window units aren’t used — instead opting to use floor-mounted units.
Marshman said a report found approximately 16,000 air conditioners were used across the organization’s buildings. He said a portion of those air conditioners have been replaced in recent years.
“I can’t speak to specifics to what was or wasn’t done by prior leadership within this organization and that’s why I come back to in the last two years what I can say is that we have replaced the 3,500 units and we continue to offer that program,” Marshman said.
“In an ideal situation there would be a lot of things that are different and I can’t go back and fix what happened historically, but what I can do and what we will do is fix it going forward.”
When asked about other cities such as Ottawa that call for air conditioners be mounted in windows over balconies, he said that is that is something TCH is looking at.
“Certainly having air conditioning units over a balcony is important. I’m not sure that all of our buildings have balconies, so we need another solution for that and I would tell you that I think the floor mounted solution is the best solution that I know of,” Marshman said.
According to a statement from Ristich Law Tuesday evening, the family hired the firm to “actively” investigate the issue.
“We believe this was an entirely preventable incident and hope to seek improvements made at all TCH buildings, so as to protect all TCH tenants and visitors in the future,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, Khursand Nurogho, Crystal’s cousin, organized a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign to help with funeral expenses and to help the family move buildings.
“She was the most beautiful, the most perfect, baby in the world. She would smile when she would wake up from her naps,” Nurogho told Global News through tears.
“They can’t go back to where their child passed away. They can’t go back to that tragic incident where they see that same place.”