Grease trap expert says toddler’s drowning death was something that could have been avoided

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – It is difficult to understand just how a 3-year-old  could fall into a grease trap and drown, but that is what happened at an ice cream shop in Auburn over the weekend.

Video surveillance shows Sadie Grace Andrews playing with two of her five siblings in a picnic table-studded grassy area on the property and apparently falling through the lid.

"This is something that should have been avoided and could have been avoided," explained Huntsville's Water Pollution Control Director, Shane Cook.

According to our news partners at AL.com, Sadie Grace was missing for no more than 10 minutes. The Lee County Coroner, Bill Harris, said he believes the grease trap’s lid wasn’t locked or fastened in any way and it opened when Sadie stepped on it. Then the lid closed with her trapped inside.

Cook says he doesn't know the layout of the Bruster's in Auburn where the incident happened but he does know enough about grease traps to know something was wrong. "I'm almost certain the lid was not there, or it had been removed previously. There's no way a toddler would be able to remove that lid."

He said those lids can weigh between 70 to 100 pounds. The City of Huntsville has an ordinance that requires restaurants to have a grease trap that is inspected regularly. "A grease trap basically slows down the flow of water. It gives that grease time to float and come together into a location where we can keep it at until it is removed and disposed of properly," he explained.

Cook said every business is different, so grease traps can be located outside or on the inside. "It can be as large as 10,000 gallons if you`re talking about a major cafeteria out in Research Park. In some parts of downtown some might be 50 gallons," he said.

He said grease traps outside are typically five foot deep, but the size depends on the plumping.

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