The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER–At least seven Canadians have died after getting stuck in clothing donation bins and the latest fatality has prompted an advocate to call for the “death traps” to be immediately fixed or removed.
A 34-year-old man was found lodged in a bin in West Vancouver on Sunday–the fifth person in the province to die the same way since 2015.
Last November, a 32-year-old man was discovered dead inside a donation box in Cambridge, Ont. while a man in his 20s died in a similar container in Calgary in July, 2017.
Jeremy Hunka of Union Gospel Mission in Vancouver said the deaths of five people in B.C., four of which still are being investigated by the BC Coroners Service, are unacceptable.
“It’s unthinkable, and it’s time to deal with this problem,” Hunka said yesterday. “Too many of our guests who would otherwise have a shot at turning their lives around are dying a horrible death inside or hanging out of a bin.”
Hunka said homeless people often try to get items out of bins or use them for shelter in cold weather without realizing the safety risks.
“People have died and they have inadvertently become death traps,” he stressed.
“It boggles my mind that they’re still in operation.”
Prof. Ray Taheri, of the school of engineering at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus, said removing an estimated 2,000 bins just in B.C. may cost up to $1 million and there would be storage problems.
He said the death of a woman in a bin at a Vancouver community centre last July prompted him to assign his first-year students a project to redesign the containers or come up with a way to retrofit existing ones, which appeared to be the better option.
One idea involved installing a mechanism that would lock the bins before anything over about nine kilograms was put inside while another required someone to press a button to get items inside a bin, Taheri noted, adding that would prevent people leaning into it.
“There’s a sense of urgency involved,” he said of the student competition for a solution.
Various organizations in the Vancouver area use different types of bins and Taheri has looked at all of them.
“Definitely, the designs on all of the bins I’ve seen, they do not accommodate for ‘What if someone tries to get inside?'” he noted.