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After toddler death in Auburn, Senate moves to mandate grease trap safety

By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

After the death of a 3-year-old girl in Auburn last year, the Alabama State Senate approved a bill Tuesday that would require restaurants to ensure their grease traps are safe and properly secured.

The bill, proposed by Auburn Republican Sen. Tom Whatley, is named after Sadie Grace Andrews, a toddler who fell into a 6-foot grease trap at an Auburn ice creams shop in October 2017, drowning before her parents could find her.

Whatley’s bill, SB258, would require restaurants with grease traps to cover the containers with a locking manhole cover or otherwise prevent accidental access by children.

Sadie was playing with her sibling outside of the ice cream shop when she stumbled atop the in-ground trap, falling inside. The grease trap had been covered with only a plastic top that had not been secured, police said.

The law, if passed, would require grease traps to be closed with a bolt or locking mechanism. The covers will need to be able to withstand the weight of a human. Restaurants not in compliance could be faced with monetary fines.

Whatley said Tuesday that he hopes the bill prevents more accidental child deaths.

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“Anytime a life is lost needlessly that’s bad, but when it’s the life of a child, it’s even worse,” Whatley said. “This bill will go a long way to rectify that problem.”

Whatley began working with the Andrews family after Sadie’s death. Her father spoke in support of the legislation last week at a Health and Human Services committee meeting.

“I hope this law will help bring awareness to this issue and that it will prevent something like this from ever happening again,” he said.

Whatley said he worked to craft a bill that wouldn’t be an unnecessary burden on private businesses.

The bill will head to the House, where Auburn Rep. Joe Lovvorn, also a Republican, will carry the bill.


Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

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