This was not a freak accident; it was predictable

I have absolutely no idea why I’m blogging about this one, but it just tweaked enough synapses in my lazy Friday morning brain to get me going.  Here’s the sad story out of Australia:

Muslim woman strangled by her burkha in freak go-kart accident

A young Muslim woman had died after her burkha became snagged in a go-kart.

The 24-year-old woman, who has not yet been named, died a terrifying death today when a fluttering part of her burkha became caught in the wheels of a go-kart she was driving near the town of  Port Stephens, north of Sydney.

The Muslim clothing the woman was wearing flew back as she sped around the track and part of it became entangled in the go-kart’s wheels.

She was strangled in a second and crashed the vehicle.

There is nothing freaky about this accident.  It was entirely predictable.  After all, it already happened 100 years ago (hyperlinks and footnotes omitted):

[Isadora] Duncan’s fondness for flowing scarves was the cause of her death in a freak automobile accident in Nice, France, on the night of September 14, 1927, at the age of 50. The scarf was hand-painted silk from the Russian-born artist Roman Chatov. The accident gave rise to Gertrude Stein’s mordant remark that “affectations can be dangerous.”

Duncan was a passenger in the Amilcar automobile of a handsome French-Italian mechanic Benoît Falchetto, whom she had nicknamed “Buggatti” (sic). Before getting into the car, she reportedly said to her friend Mary Desti and some companions, “Adieu, mes amis. Je vais à la gloire!” (Goodbye, my friends, I am off to glory!). However, according to American novelist Glenway Wescott, who was in Nice at the time and visited Duncan’s body in the morgue, Desti admitted that she had lied about Duncan’s last words. Instead, she told Wescott, Duncan said, “Je vais à l’amour” (I am off to love). Desti considered this too embarrassing to be recorded as the dance legend’s last words, especially as it suggested that Duncan hoped that she and Falchetto were going to her hotel for a sexual assignation.

When Falchetto drove off Duncan’s large silk scarf, a gift from Desti, and draped around her neck, became entangled around one of the vehicle’s open-spoked wheels and rear axle. As The New York Times noted in its obituary: “Isadora Duncan, the American dancer, tonight met a tragic death at Nice on the Riviera. According to dispatches from Nice, Miss Duncan was hurled in an extraordinary manner from an open automobile in which she was riding and instantly killed by the force of her fall to the stone pavement.” Other sources described her death as resulting from strangulation, noting that she was almost decapitated by the sudden tightening of the scarf around her neck.

As Gertrude Stein figured out, if you’re going to put fashion (or religious demands) ahead of safety, bad things can happen.  Bottom line:  when you’re near cogs, gears, wheels and other moving stuff, don’t wear fluttery clothes that can get caught.

I’m not the only one saying that.  The U.S. government, aware that these events are predictable, warns against much the same hazard:

Clothing strings, loose clothing, and stringed items placed around the neck can catch on playground equipment and strangle children.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has received reports of deaths when these items became caught on playground equipment, especially slides and swings. Items included strings on clothing (such as hoods and attached mittens), loose clothing (such as scarves and ponchos), and other items (such as jump ropes) placed around the neck. These items caught on protrusions, open-ended hooks, gaps, and other parts of playground equipment.

Avoid dressing children in loose or stringed clothing if they will be on playground equipment.


Clothing strings, loose clothing, and stringed items placed around the neck can strangle a child.

Never dress a child in loose or stringed clothing if they will be on playground equipment.