Tenants at Toronto Community Housing (TCH) properties will no longer be allowed to install window air conditioners after a two-year-old girl was fatally struck by a falling machine in November, according to officials.
“We are taking steps to protect the safety of tenants, staff and visitors to our buildings and are asking for the cooperation of tenants as we implement these measures,” Kevin Marshman, TCH’s president and CEO, said in a statement on Monday.
“Sadly, we have seen how the risk of a window air conditioner becoming dislodged can have tragic consequences.”
The news comes after emergency crews were called to a TCH apartment building on Lawrence Avenue East, east of Scarborough Golf Club Road, on Nov. 11.
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. She was rushed to the Hospital for Sick Children where she later died.
Two days after Crystal’s death, the housing agency announced its staff was reviewing the inventory of air conditioners at all TCH properties.
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.
TCH officials said the current policy requires tenants to get written permission to install air conditioners. However, as of Monday, the organization will no longer allow the units to be installed if the machines aren’t contained within a balcony.
The statement said crews began removing air conditioners from multi-storey building windows not contained within a balcony on Thursday. The goal is to remove all of those air conditioners by Dec. 25. Crews will then remove air conditioners from townhouses.
Before the start of the 2020 “cooling season,” TCH staff said every air conditioner removed will be replaced with a new floor-model unit at no charge to the tenant. Eventually all air conditioners will be replaced with floor-model units.
Marshman previously told Global News there are approximately 16,000 air conditioners at TCH properties, adding 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 on Nov. 13.
“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 the situation at an unrelated press conference Tuesday morning, Mayor John Tory called the incident a “terrible tragedy” and said he believes the change will make it “safer for residents.”
Tory said TCH was already acting on a report to remove the air conditioners. However, he didn’t say why the organization had been taking a long time to do so.
“Sometimes, not just in government but elsewhere, tragedy causes people to accelerate or reconsider the way they’re doing things,” he said.
“That’s not to make an excuse but now the proper judicious decision has been taken to replace these for safety reasons.
“It’s being done and on a fairly expedited timetable and it will produce other benefits beyond just improving safety.”
Meanwhile, Crystal’s family hired Ristich Law to “actively” investigate the issue.
In a statement issued by Slavko Ristich on Tuesday, he said they “welcome” the TCH policy change. However, he said they believe it is “too little and too late.”
“If the TCHC had taken this step in the 12 years since it was recommended in 2007, we believe Crystal would still be with us today,” he wrote.
A GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign was launched by Crystal’s cousin to help the family with funeral expenses and to help them move buildings.