His screams warned the aid, but it was too late to save the 35-year-old Toronto woman trapped in the hole of a donated clothing box Tuesday morning.
The woman, identified only as Crystal, was dead when firefighters managed to cut her out of the League For Human Rights drop-down box.
Death marks the second time in just eight days that a Canadian died apparently trying to remove items from a clothing donation can.
It is the third Canadian death since November and at least the seventh since 2015.
With critics referring to the boxes as "deadly traps," charities and municipalities are taking drastic measures to prevent further fatalities.
Diabetes Canada announced last week that it is adapting all of its clothing donation boxes to prevent death or injury in cases of misuse. Inclusion B.C. is removing all 146 of its B.C. dumps, despite expected revenue and job losses. The city of West Vancouver has ordered all its gift boxes to be locked, while Burnaby, B.C., asks that all boxes be removed within the city limits.
The rash of deaths in the garments seems to be exclusively Canadian. A recent news survey found only a few examples of binary deaths in Europe and the United States, despite their much larger populations.
The problem also seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon.
Recently, in 2014, a person who was trapped inside a donation box was so rare – and seemed so benign – that it was jokes. "I think they should have left it there personally," an East Vancouver reporter told a CTV newsroom after a 20-year-old man was trapped inside the main bin of the Developmental Disabilities Association.
The following year a well-known homeless advocate named Anita Hauck was killed in a Pitt Meadows donation box while trying to get a jacket and blanket from a colleague living in a nearby town.
Since then, Canada has not been able to spend more than a few months without anyone being fatally injured by a laundry basket, with countless more cases of people having to be rescued. The Vancouver area has seen most of the incidents, although deaths have occurred in Calgary and Cambridge, Ont.
All the victims were homeless or suffering from addiction problems, and they seemed to be trying to remove clothes from the boxes. "She went up to get clothes and got trapped and succumbed to injuries," Vancouver Fire Department chief David Boone said after a woman was killed by a can in West Point Gray.
All died upside down; stuck in the bin's kick with his feet out. Some victims were not found until hours after death. Others managed to shout for help, but they could not be withdrawn in time to save their lives.
The victims do not appear to have sought shelter in the boxes. In fact, most of the deaths occurred in the summer.
All boxes involved in fatalities have acted as a standard Canada Post mailbox: a drawer bends to accept donations and a safety flap fits to prevent theft of the carton.
When attempting to climb, someone may get caught between the drawer and the safety flap and suspended upside down in the compartment.
"It's much more dangerous than it looks on the surface," Jonathan Gormick, a spokesman for the Vancouver Fire Rescue, told CBC in mid-2018.
Most deaths are due to respiratory impairment. The mechanism of the drawer contracts the victim's torso, making it difficult to breathe. Being kept upside down for long periods can also be fatal in itself; the victim may suffocate from the pressure of their organs that weigh on their lungs, or they may suffer a stroke while blood collects in their head.
Although Canadian incidents have been remarkably similar, landfills can also kill by other means. In 2012, a woman in Staten Island, N.Y., successfully entered the main compartment of a clothing donation box, but was strangled as she tried to leave.
A particularly unusual fatality occurred in 2017 in Natalie, Pennsylvania. The victim, Judith Permar, was not homeless, but was known to have a history of theft of gift boxes. At one of those two in the morning, Permar fell off a ladder she was using to access a dumpster, reaching for her arm on the ramp. The impact broke her arm and wrist, leaving her swaying in extreme pain, and she subsequently died of exposure.
Many of the Canadian boxes that kill people have kept the same project for decades without incident. RangeView Fabricating, a Toronto-based company that manufactured some of the boxes involved in fatal incidents, said on Tuesday that its boxes operated without incident for most of the 25 years they were in operation.
In the wake of the recent deaths, however, the company suspended manufacturing until it could design a more secure design. Meanwhile, the company is advising existing owners of their boxes to remove safety measures that could trap a human in the pit.
"We're telling our charities:" You'll have to deal with the robbery because public safety is number one, "company manager Brandon Agro told The Canadian Press. "If someone goes into your bin and gets your product, it's going to have to be this way for now."
In July 2017, after a twenty-something man died in a Calgary donation box, a representative of the Cerebral Palsy Association in Alberta told Global News that they had noticed an increase in canister thefts.
Ray Taheri, an engineering professor at the Okanagan campus at the University of British Columbia, has led a design competition to make a safer clothing donation box. An idea involved a mechanism that would lock the boxes if something heavier than nine pounds was placed inside.
"It's so sad that something so beautiful turns into something so tragic," Taheri told Postmedia on Jan. 1, just days before the latest death in Toronto.