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Mustang family shares heartbreaking warning after three-year-old dies in hope chest

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MUSTANG, Okla. (KFOR) - After the death of their precious three-year-old boy, a local family wants to share their story with you, and they say it's a warning that can't be shared soon enough.

This warning is about a little-known danger that took the life of their child and many others.

"He was a firecracker because he lived happy, wild - with no fear," Jasmine Aldridge said of her son.

Born two days before the 4th of July – like a firecracker – Wyatt Eastin Aldridge lit up his family's world.

In his three short years, the little boy was surrounded by love.

"He'd say, 'I just love you, mama. I just love you,'" Aldridge said. "He'd tell Clint, 'I love you daddy.' He used to tell Austin, 'You're the best bubba ever,' and Austin would tell him, 'You're the best bubba ever too.'"

Wyatt – the baby of the family – was adventurous like his dad.

"He was all boy, all boy for sure," his grandmother Angela Caricofe said.

So naturally, at a fall community event, he was drawn to the Mustang fire trucks.

Firefighters spent time with Wyatt, and he had a ball.

But little did anyone know that those same firefighters would be at Wyatt's house the next morning.

Wyatt's parents woke up that fateful day, Oct. 18, 2019, in panic.

They couldn't find their little boy.

Then came a discovery no parent should ever have to make.

"He looked like he was just sleeping," Angela Caricofe said.

Wyatt snuck out of bed at night and laid down on blankets in a hope chest.

At some point it shut, and the three-year-old never woke up.

He suffocated inside the air-tight chest.

Wyatt's family says he'd never shown interest in the chest, and they don't know how he even managed to get inside.

With locks and heavy lids, hope chests were popular from the 1900s to the 1980s, originally designed to preserve blankets, clothing and family heirlooms.

But in 1996, millions were recalled after the deaths of six children.

Four years later, the Consumer Product Safety Commission renewed their search for them after another suffocation.

However the deaths keep happening. In 2017, two Massachusetts siblings died together in a hope chest.

The problem is many are still in circulation at garage and estate sales, like the one where Wyatt's mom bought their's.

"We know guns are unsafe around kids," Angela Caricofe said. "We know swimming pools. As parents and grandparents we try to think of all the dangers, but you just can't think of all of them."

It's a problem even childhood safety experts like Laura Gamino with the Safe Kids OKC Coalition hadn't heard about.

Wyatt's story prompted her to take a good look at a chest handed down from her mother.

"And it does lock," Gamino said.

Gamino says safety is a big problem with secondhand items because many people don't know about recalls, and if you keep your hope chest, she urges you to take the same safety precaution she did.

"Be sure to unscrew that top locking mechanism," she said.

Wyatt's family hopes they can let others know of this danger before it's too late.

"Just please, if you have this box or if you know anybody that has it, get the word out," Angela said.

Little Wyatt's story was just the beginning, and though it was cut short, his family takes comfort in knowing the amount of love he felt.

"We'd paint each other's faces with kisses," Jasmine Aldridge said. "He'd say, 'I love you to the moon, the stars and the sky.'"

Lane Furniture was the best-known retailer of the hope chests.

They've recalled all of theirs, offer replacement latches and even helped the Consumer Product Safety Commission search for more in circulation.

To request a replacement latch from Lane, click here.

The Aldridge family's hope chest had a "Cavalier" logo on it; it appears that company hasn't been in business in quite some time.

However, some are for sale online via third-party retailers, and, of course, could be found at garage and estate sales, like the one the family had.

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