When it comes to purchasing Ikea furniture, it’s safe to say there’s an unspoken message of “buyer beware.”
Buyer beware of the million pieces you’ll have to navigate in this box. Buyer beware of the marital problems that may come from assembly of this furniture. Buyer beware of the cheap price, as it’s reflected in cheap materials. For Nicole Oka, the message was buyer beware: this furniture may fall over and crush small children.
It’s a hazard that has killed at least 10 kids, and one that Nicole was terrified of while decorating her twins’ bedroom in 2017.
“I remember being so afraid of this happening,” she told USA Today. “It felt like a very real thing that could happen to me.”
After picking out a tall Ikea bookshelf, Nicole and her husband used the included hardware to anchor it to the wall—as suggested by the instructions.
Then, earlier this month, her nightmare became a reality.
On June 3, Nicole and her husband put their 2-year-old twins, Clara and Dominic, to bed around 7:15 p.m.
After they left the room, Clara walked over to the bookcase—which was securely fastened to the wall—pulled the bottom drawer out, and climbed in. She ushered her brother Dominc over to join her. Harrowing video footage captured by the Oka’s baby monitor shows the moment the toddlers’ weight caused the anchored bookcase to tip over, crashing down on top of them.
Nicole said she heard the thud from upstairs, glanced at the baby monitor and saw the bookcase flat on the floor. She and her husband rushed downstairs to the twins’ bedroom where they lifted the bookcase and checked for bumps and bruises. Thankfully, they found none.
“My babies could have died,” Nicole said. “I did everything right. I did everything I should have.”
Although Ikea has long stressed the importance of anchoring it’s furniture, the company has a track record of tipping incidents—with five deaths since 2014.
In 2016, Ikea recalled 17.3 million dressers. At the time, the company acknowledged that most of its dressers did not meet the furniture industry’s stability test, which is meant to ensure a piece of furniture will remain upright in the case of a child pulling on it, or several drawers being open at once—both of which happened when the Oka twins’ bookcase came crashing down.
The Ikea bookshelf that tipped onto Clara and Dominic is part of the Brimnes line, which includes three dressers that were recalled in 2016. The tall, slim unit is six feet tall, has two drawers at the bottom and four shelves.
That night, after putting her twins back to bed, Nicole says she checked on the stability of another Ikea bookcase in her 4-year-old son’s bedroom. The unit, which was also anchored to the wall had come detached when she pulled at it.
Nicole says she’s watched the video countless times trying to figure out how her children made it out unscathed. She believes the bookshelves fell out of place when the unit came crashing forward, which may have caused her children to be trapped in the frame, but not crushed.
“I’m so glad that I have this video. As horrible as it is to watch it, I know the outcome was that they were fine,” she said. “And your mind obviously is going to go to the kids that aren’t fine.”
Nicole is working with a Philadelphia law firm who has represented several parents of children who have died due to Ikea dressers tipping over. She says she doesn’t plan on filing litigation against the company because her children were not injured, but has filed a complaint with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, who is investigating the incident.
Ikea spokeswoman Hanna Bengtsander, said in a statement that the company was aware of the incident and grateful the children were not injured.
“We are currently reviewing the video involving the BRIMNES bookcase and need more time to get a better understanding of the details,” she said. “We cannot provide any additional comment at this time.”