The near-tragedy that occurred when a 5-year-old girl fell into a grease trap outside a Southridge Centre restaurant on Nov. 11 has prompted the Kanawha County Commission to make passage of a grease trap safety law its top legislative priority for 2020.
Kambria Cvechko was playing with friends and family members on a lawn outside Las Trancas restaurant following an evening meal at the Mexican eatery when her mother, Kara, saw her step on a ground-level plastic lid covering the grease trap, teeter forward, and then fall in.
The girl fell nearly 5 feet into the grease pit, but her mother managed to grab hold of her and hang on, with the help of two boys in the group who reportedly sat on her legs to prevent her from falling in, too.
“How she stayed above the grease was a miracle,” said C.J. Sigman, director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for Kanawha County, while describing the accident during a Kanawha County Commission meeting Thursday.
“It’s what any mother would do,” said Kara Cvechko, after Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper praised her for her “remarkable, heroic” response to the emergency.
Not long after the incident, Cvechko told reporters she would like to see an inspection program go into effect to prevent other children and their parents from having to undergo similar life-threatening experiences.
That wish came came true on Thursday, when Stanley Mills, director of environmental health services for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, appeared at the commission meeting to announce passage of a new health department regulation. The new rule requires all grease trap covers in the county to be secured in place, and their security verified by personnel from companies servicing the traps. Fines will be issued to those failing to comply in a timely manner.
Last year, the Alabama Legislature passed the Sadie Grace Andrews Act, named in honor of a 3-year-old girl who drowned in a grease trap outside an ice cream parlor in Auburn, Alabama, in 2017. It requires owners of grease traps to raise access ports above ground level and cover the devices with lids that are bolted and locked in place, and made from materials strong enough to withstand heavy traffic.
Carper said he would like to see a West Virginia grease trap safety law to be patterned along the same lines as Alabama’s and be named Kambria’s Law, in honor of Cvechko’s daughter.
Prior to the Nov. 11 incident, there were no requirements for grease trap inspection or safety in Kanawha County, according to Mills.
Other legislation to be sought by Kanawha County during the upcoming legislative session includes:
n A bill dispensing with the organ donation check-off box on state drivers’ licenses and making donation the default position for license-holders, unless they choose to notify the DMV otherwise.
n A bill classifying all state 911 center staffers as first responders and bringing them into a first responders’ retirement system.
n Enacting a ban on flavored e-cigarettes.
n A bill making same-day voter registration possible.
n A bill establishing a tax similar to the existing hotel-motel tax for Airbnb hosts.