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A 13-year-old boy was killed after he and four other children broke into a locked warehouse and used forklifts to play “bumper cars”. And now the boy’s family is blaming the warehouse’s owners for letting it happen.
The incident occurred about 9:20 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27, at the Newman Paper Company, in Wissinoming, Pennsylvania, a suburb just northwest of Philadelphia.
Broke into a Locked Facility
Although the facility is surrounded by a locked chain-link fence, police said Ethan Shoemaker and a group of four other juveniles aged 12 to 14 climbed through a hole in a fence at the rear of the facility. Once inside, they discovered a number of forklifts that still had keys inside their ignitions.
One teenager who was there told a local TV news channel that the children drove the forklifts around the facility playing “bumper cars”, attempting to narrowly avoid colliding with one another.
During this joy riding, a forklift driven by a 13-year-old girl smashed into another driven by Shoemaker, causing his forklift to tip over. Shoemaker fell under the multi-ton lift truck, where he suffered blunt head trauma. He was later pronounced dead.
Family Blames Paper Company
A security guard told police that he physically checked the facility less than an hour before the incident occurred to verify that it was locked and secured.
But Shoemaker’s family blamed the owners of the paper company for the boy’s death, complaining to local news outlets that the company should have done more to keep the teenagers out of their facility.
Robert Grogan, the boy’s uncle, told reporters that Newman Paper should have done more to secure the facility to resist curious teenagers. The boy’s father, George Shoemaker, and other family members also criticized the paper company for what they perceived to be a lack of security.
Still, the boy’s father told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he believed it wasn’t the first time his son and his friends broke into the facility to play on the heavy equipment.
A Wild Spirit
Family members said Ethan Shoemaker had a wild streak and was known among his neighbors as “Dennis the Menace”. They recalled when he swam in the dangerous, fast-moving waters of the Delaware River and another time he disappeared for two days, prompting a police search — only to return wondering about all the commotion.
They said he was always curious and frequently tempted danger, and enjoyed bragging about his exploits later.
Shoemaker was a 7th grader at Meehan Middle School, in Philadelphia. Grief counselors were dispatched to the school to provide counseling for students and staff.
Officials from Newman Paper issued a statement offering condolences to the boy’s family.
An official investigation into the incident is continuing, police said. It was not immediately known if anybody would be charged in connection with the boy’s death, or whether it would be ruled accidental.