Const. Leslie Sardella of the Niagara Regional Police said investigators believe the incident was completely accidental and no charges are pending.
“It could have happened to anyone,” Sardella said in a telephone interview. “Anyone who’s a parent knows that there are times that your child is around and you’re not aware of their presence. It’s a very, very unfortunate situation for this family.”
Sardella said the boy was injured around 9 p.m. when his father was cutting the lawn of the family home.
The 32-year-old man apparently believed his son was safely inside the house, but unbeknownst to him the child had slipped outside and had begun following his dad around the property.
When he put the riding mower in reverse, Sardella said he accidentally hit the child.
A neighbour who works as a paramedic in a nearby city rushed to the scene to help stabilize the child until emergency responders could get there. The toddler was eventually rushed to hospital with injuries that Sardella described as critical.
Police did not provide details on the nature of his injuries, and the boy’s name is not being released out of respect for the family’s request for privacy.
When lawn mowing accidents take place, some data suggests that children are by far the most likely victims.
The most recent figures compiled by the Canada Safety Council, which draws on statistics from the Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program, showed 1,161 people were injured by lawn mowers between 1990 and 2006.
Of those, nearly 50 per cent were children under the age of 15. The program collects data from the emergency rooms of the 10 pediatric hospitals throughout Canada and four general hospitals.
Raynald Marchand, general manager of programs for the council, said the latest accident reinforces the importance of not taking kids’ actions for granted.
“Little ones, and I’ve had them, they really need constant supervision,” he said. “You can’t assume that somebody’s looking after them. You have to make sure.”
Sardella said the police’s traffic reconstruction unit is continuing to look into the case and will issue an update when more information is available.