PATHOLOGY AND BIOLOGY
Kamil H. Dogan,
M.D.; Serafettin Demirci,
M.D.; Zerrin Erkol,
M.D.; and Mete K. Gulmen,
Accidental Hanging Deaths in Children in
Konya, Turkey Between 1998 and 2007*
ABSTRACT: In general, hanging cases are the result of suicide, and accidental and homicidal hanging cases are rarely seen. This study ret-
rospectively investigated 4571 death examinations and autopsies that were performed at The Konya Branch of the Forensic Medicine Council
(Turkey) between 1998 and 2007; hanging was involved in 201 (6.5%) of the cases. There were a total of 13 accidental hanging cases, where
12 of these involved children. In seven of the cases, the accidental hanging involved a scarf that wraps around swing-like cradles and is
intended to prevent infants from falling down. It was concluded that accidental hanging deaths can be reduced by replacing swing-like cradles
with cribs that are designed for children, removing ropes in and around the house, and preventing children from reaching and ⁄or playing with
KEYWORDS: forensic science, hanging, asphyxia, children, death, accident
Children have an increased risk for injury or death from acci-
dents for a variety of reasons compared to adults. Perhaps the
greatest reason is their natural curiosity, which leads them to
explore their environment and investigate situations where they
often do not recognize potential hazards (1). Nevertheless, acciden-
tal hangings are still very uncommon in the pediatric population
(2,3). Most reported cases of hanging occur in adults, and the
majority are attributed to suicide (4). A number of articles have dis-
cussed the general features of hanging and several have included
cases involving child victims (4–6). Unlike adult hangings, cases
involving children are typically accidental and most frequently
occur in the child’s bedroom (3,4). The present study evaluated the
circumstances of 12 accidental hanging cases that involved
Materials and Methods
This study retrospectively investigated 4571 death examinations
and autopsies that were performed at The Konya Branch of the
Forensic Medicine Council (Turkey) between 1998 and 2007;
hanging was the cause of 201 (4.4%) of the deaths. There were a
total of 13 (6.5%) accidental hanging cases and 12 of these
involved children. The present study evaluated those 12 cases
with respect to their demographic characteristics, the location of the
incident, the manner of the incidents that took place, and the
findings of the scene investigation and autopsy.
The ages of the cases ranged from 6 months to 11 years, with
an average age of 3.4 € 3.9 years. There were ten boys and two
girls. In seven cases, death resulted from entanglement with a
ligature (scarf, handmade sash, braid rope) that was wrapped
around a handmade swing-like cradle (e.g., hammock), which
Fig. 1). As the infant leaned out of the cradle, the ligature
wrappedaroundhis⁄her neck and caused the asphyxiation. Three
of the cases involved a rope in the yard of the home. Of the
remaining two cases, one involved a rope hanging down from a
construction wall and the other occurred when the child’s neck
was entangled in a tight electrical heater cable while he was
crawling on the floor (Table 2). The scene investigations and
autopsies determined that all 12 deaths had occurred as a result
External examination during the autopsy revealed that ligature
marks were clear in 11 cases, while the mark was only superficial
in one case (Table 1, case 5). In the latter case, the hanging
occurred when the victim leaned out of a swing-like cradle and a
handmade sash tied around the cradle wrapped around his neck.
Petechial hemorrhages on the facial and ⁄or conjunctival tissue were
evident in five cases. All of the cases showed petechial hemor-
rhages at the undersurface of the scalp, and under the pleura and
epicardium. Congestion and edema in the brain and lungs as well
as ecchymosis in the soft tissues under the ligature marks were also
visible in all 12 cases. The hyoid bone and thyroid cartilage did
not fracture in any of the cases. Detailed case information is out-
lined in Tables 1 and 2.
Victims had been removed from the ligatures during the rescue
attempts for all but one of the cases (Table 2, case 1) and had
therefore been moved from the original position before the scene
investigation. However, representations of the victims’original posi-
tions were reenacted by the persons who had found the bodies
(Fig. 3). One victim (Table 1, case 5) died in the hospital from
Department of Forensic Medicine, Meram Medical School, Selcuk Uni-
versity, 42080 Meram, Konya, Turkey.
Faculty of Medicine, Department of Forensic Medicine, Abant Izzet Bay-
sal University, 14280 Golkoy, Bolu, Turkey.
Faculty of Medicine, Department of Forensic Medicine, Cukurova Uni-
versity, 01330 Balcali, Adana, Turkey.
*Presented at the 18th Triennial Meeting of the International Association
of Forensic Sciences, New Orleans, USA, July 21–25, 2008.
Received 8 Dec. 2008; and in revised form 6 Mar. 2009; accepted 20
J Forensic Sci, May 2010, Vol. 55, No. 3
Available online at: interscience.wiley.com
2010 American Academy of Forensic Sciences 637
hypoxic brain syndrome 12 h after the incident. The remaining 11
victims died at the scene of the accident.
Although varying in the details, many studies have identified that
the most common causes of accidental death for children are motor
vehicle accidents, drowning, and fires ⁄burns (7,8). Accidental
asphyxia can occur in childhood as a result of a variety of common
and rare situations (9).
In a review of 201 hanging death cases, Bowen (4) reported that
5% were accidental. Three of those cases involved infants and in
each case, their clothing had apparently become caught on part of
a crib. Similarly, 13 of the 201 hanging deaths (6.5%) in this study
were accidental, and 12 of the 13 (92.3%) occurred in children.
Our findings demonstrate that accidental hanging cases (in this
region) predominantly occur in children. There are two typical sce-
narios for hanging deaths in children, either accidental hanging in
infancy (in a crib or pram) or accidental hanging at play (usually
involving young boys) (3).
Over a 34-year study period, Byard (9) reported a total of 40 cases
of accidental asphyxia that resulted from unsafe sleeping circum-
stances, including 20 wedging ⁄positional asphyxias, 13 hangings, 4
suffocations, and 3 over-layings. Sturner et al. (10) reported 45 cases
of accidental asphyxia deaths involving children, including 11 cases
of wedging. Another study identified broken cribs and pacifier cords
as other causes (11). Accidental asphyxia can occur in younger
children and infants, who may move into positions in which their
airways become occluded, their bodies become wedged so that they
are unable to breathe, or they become suspended from their clothing
or restraining harnesses (1,12–14). Cooke et al. (3) noted three main
causes of crib hangings: entanglement in restraining harnesses, sus-
pension by clothing or pacifier cords, and entrapment against a crib’s
structural framework. The study identified seven cases of accidental
asphyxia that resulted from entanglement in restraining harnesses
designed to restrain infants within their cradles.
Many houses in Turkey (especially those situated in the villages
and slums) are built with metal rings mounted in the ceilings, so
that the occupants can set up swing-like cradles, which are ham-
mock-like in nature. The cradles are constructed by tying two ropes
between the two metal rings and connecting them with cloth.
Infants are placed in these cradles on top of cushions, and ligatures
(e.g., scarf, rope, or sash) are tied around the cradles to prevent
them from falling out. However, the ligature can wrap around the
neck and asphyxiate the infant if it leans out of the cradle. Seven
of the accidental hanging cases in this study were caused by this
simple cradle safety mechanism; detailed information about these
cases is given in Table 1.
Cooke et al. (3) reported that a looped curtain cord was the
cause of death of a 1-year-old girl who was found suspended by
her neck near her bed. In another case, a 1-year-old boy was found
suspended by his neck after becoming entangled in a loose electric
heater cable while crawling (Table 2, case 1). A third case involved
a 5 year-old girl found suspended by her neck in a rope-ring lock
on the garden toilet’s door (Table 2, case 2). Such cases highlight
the potential accidental hanging risk posed by ropes found in or
around the house that are either stretchedortiedtoafixedpoint.
Several more studies are available to reinforce this point. One study
attributed the hanging deaths of three Western Australian boys to
ropes attached to a garden shed, a verandah roof, and a tree (3).
Polson et al. (15) described three cases of accidental hanging
involving children at play; in one case, a 6-year-old boy was play-
ing ‘‘cowboys’’ with a rope and the remaining two involved youn-
ger girls playing with swings. These authors also mention
accidental hanging as a result of boys climbing trees or railings.
Two child hanging deaths were reported by Perrot et al. (16), a
5-year-old boy found suspended from a light fixture in a backyard
TABLE 1—Properties of the accidental hanging cases occurring in swing-like cradles*.
Facial and ⁄or
Conjunctival Petechiae Autopsy Findings
1 6 m M Scarf + Ligature mark on the right neck region, petechiae at the base of the
tongue, ecchymosis in the neck muscles
2 6 m M Scarf )Ligature mark on the anterior neck region, ecchymosis in both
3 7 m M Scarf (Figs. 2
+ Ligature mark on the anterior neck region (Fig. 4), ecchymosis at
the base of the tongue
4 12 m F Scarf + Ligature mark on the right neck region, ecchymosis at the base of
the tongue and in the right tonsil
12 m M Handmade
)Superficial ligature mark on the left neck region, ecchymosis in the
6 18 m M Scarf + Ligature mark on the anterior neck region, ecchymosis at the base of
7 24 m M Braid rope )Ligature mark on the anterior neck region, petechiae at the base of
*As the victim leaned out of the cradle, the ligature that was tied around the swing-like cradle wrapped around the child’s neck, resulting in asphyxia.
Neither the hyoid bone nor the thyroid cartilage fractured in any of the cases. All of the cases showed petechial hemorrhages at the undersurface of the scalp as
well as under the pleura and the epicardium, congestion and edema in the brain and in the lungs and ecchymosis in the soft tissues under the ligature mark.
The victim died of hypoxic brain syndrome 12 h after he was brought to the hospital. The remaining victims died at the scene of the accident.
FIG. 1—Handmade swing-like cradle and handmade sash.
638 JOURNAL OF FORENSIC SCIENCES
TABLE 2—Properties of the accidental hanging cases that did not involve swing-like cradles.
Number Age Sex
Manner of the Incidents
that Took Place
Findings of the Scene
Conjunctival Petechiae Autopsy Findings*
1 1 M House Suspension by an electric
heater cable while he was
The victim was in a pulled
back position by an electric
heater cable stretched
across the living room
+ Ligature mark on the
anterior neck region
(Fig. 6), petechiae at the
base of the tongue
2 5 F Toilet in
of the house
Suspension by a rope ring
tied on the wooden toilet
door while she was playing
Rope ring tied on the toilet
door used for
opening ⁄closing it
)Ligature mark on the
anterior neck region,
petechiae at the base of the
3 7 M Garden of
Suspension by a stretched
clothesline while he was
dropping down from a
Clothesline stretched over
the upper region of a
)Ligature mark on the left
neck region, ecchymosis at
the base of the tongue
10 M Garden of
Suspension by a clothesline
while he was dropping
down from the roof of the
Stairs propped up to the tree,
ropes tied on the branches
of the tree, clothesline tied
to a wooden beam situated
over the roof with 10 m
height (Fig. 7)
)Ligature mark on the
anterior neck region
(Fig. 8), ecchymosis at the
base of the tongue and
5 11 M Window of
Suspension by a clothesline
while he was dropping
down from the window of
Clothesline tied on an iron
stick found above the
)Ligature mark on the
anterior neck region,
ecchymosis at the base of
the tongue and in the neck
*Neither the hyoid bone nor the thyroid cartilage fractured in any of the cases. All of the cases showed petechial hemorrhages at the undersurface of the
scalp as well as under the pleura and the epicardium, congestion and edema in the brain and in the lungs and ecchymosis in the soft tissues under the ligature
The victim told his mother 2 days prior to his death that he was able to drop down from the roof of the house, which had two floors. He was taking
medication for attention deficit ⁄hyperactivity disorder.
FIG. 2—The scene of the incident for case 3 (Table 1).
FIG. 3—Father demonstrating position of infant at the scene investigation
(Table 1, case 3).
DOGAN ET AL. •ACCIDENTAL HANGING DEATHS IN CHILDREN IN KONYA 639
shed and a 6-year-old girl who was suspended from the T bar of a
clothesline. Another study reported the successful resuscitation of a
6-year-old boy after an accidental hanging, which was likely the
result of imitative behavior; the boy had witnessed a ‘‘judicial’’
hanging scene in a television movie (17).
This study identified one case that involved a 7-year-old boy
who was found suspended by a rope that was drooping down from
a wooden door in his house’s garden (Table 2, case 3). Two cases
were identified in which boys were imitating climbers they had
seen on television and were hung by a rope when they dropped
down from the roof or the window of their houses (Table 2, cases
4 and 5). The 10-year-old boy was taking medication for attention
deficit ⁄hyperactivity disorder (Table 2, case 4).
Accidental and suicidal hanging deaths are predominantly caused
by compression of the blood vessels supplying the brain, where
these (the major veins and the carotid and vertebral arteries) can be
compressed with relatively little force (18). Unconsciousness can
occur very rapidly, causing the body to become limp and intensify-
ing compression of the blood vessels. The presence of a ligature is
not necessary to classify such a death as hanging, provided that
constriction of the neck as a result of the victim’s body weight can
be demonstrated (5).
FIG. 4—Ligature mark and facial petechiae (Table 1, case 3).
FIG. 5—The child
s neck was entangled in a tight cable of the electric
heater while he was crawling on the floor of the living room (Table 2, case
FIG. 6—Ligature mark and facial petechiae (Table 2, case 1).
FIG. 7—Clothesline tied to a wooden beam situated over the roof at a
height of 10 m (Table 2, case 4).
640 JOURNAL OF FORENSIC SCIENCES
Hanging deaths are readily identifiable at autopsy by the ligature
marks around the neck and occasionally by facial petechiae. Liga-
ture marks were clear in 11 of the 12 autopsy cases in this study
(Table 1, case 5). The ligature marks were superficial in the 12th
case, which was caused by a sash tied around a cradle. Petechial
hemorrhages on the f ace and ⁄or conjunctivae were evident in five
cases, but were present at the undersurface of the scalp, as well as
under the pleura and the epicardium in all of the cases. Macro-
scopic and microscopic hemorrhages were seen in the soft tissues
localized under the ligature marks. All cases also had congestion
and edema of the brain and the lungs, but the hyoid bone and thy-
roid cartilage were not fractured in any of the cases, which was
likely due to the elasticity of these structures in children.
Scene investigation is very important in accidental hanging cases,
as the causal factors can be identified by examining the scenes of
death. Beyond their importance in determining the cause of death,
the causal factors may have direct implications for public health
policy and legislation (9,19). However, when the victims in our
study were found suspended, they were immediately removed from
their ligatures and taken to local hospitals for resuscitation. As a
result, all but one of the victims (Table 2, case 1) were not in their
original positions during the scene investigation. In these situations,
the circumstances of the case are generally explained by examining
the hanging mechanism and having the persons who found the sus-
pended victims recreate their original positions.
Although it is not possible to predict every dangerous circum-
stance, knowing a range of causes may enable us to make certain
generalizations regarding child safety (20). Swing-like cradles are
predominantlyusedbypoorand⁄or uneducated families in Turkey.
When asked by the Public Prosecutor if the victims’deaths were
the result of parental negligence, the Forensic Medicine Expert
often believed (in the cases of swing-like cradles) that the parents
were unaware, due to poor education, that the ligatures they used
to keep their infants in their cradles could cause the infants’deaths.
Educating families on the risks of rope-suspended cradles could
prevent future accidental hanging cases.
In conclusion, the number of childhood accidental hanging
deaths can be reduced by replacing swing-like cradles with beds
that are designed for children, removing ropes in and around the
house in which children might get entangled, and preventing chil-
dren from reaching and ⁄or playing with rope-like objects.
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Additional information and reprint requests:
Kamil H. Dogan, M.D.
Selcuk University, Meram Medical School
Department of Forensic Medicine
42080 Meram, Konya
FIG. 8—Ligature mark (Table 2, case 4).
DOGAN ET AL. •ACCIDENTAL HANGING DEATHS IN CHILDREN IN KONYA 641