Wharf statues eyed after boy killed

Days after a toddler was killed by a 6-foot-tall dolphin statue that fell on him as he climbed on it near Fisherman’s Wharf, workers and residents in the area expressed shock that such a tragedy could happen in a normally bustling and jubilant neighborhood.

The 2-year-old boy, identified by the medical examiner as Kayson Shelton of Draper, Utah, climbed up and wrapped his arms and legs around the heavy statue outside Majestic Collection Art Gallery at Jefferson and Taylor streets on Friday.

The statue toppled over onto the boy, police Officer Gordon Shyy said.

The boy was initially treated for a nosebleed by responding emergency crews. He was taken to San Francisco General Hospital, where he died from internal injuries a few hours later.

Troy Campbell, executive director of the Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District, was on his lunch break when the incident occurred Friday. He didn’t see the boy fall but saw him being loaded into an ambulance shortly after.

“It’s horrible, absolutely horrible,” Campbell said Monday afternoon. “I saw the child, I saw the parents. He was just a little baby and he’s gone.”

The section of Jefferson Street where the incident occurred is peppered with art shops, many of which display statues in the doorways — and sometimes illegally on the sidewalks — to attract customers. San Francisco municipal police code prohibits shop owners from blocking sidewalks and can fine businesses up to $300 for doing so.

Tourists and residents alike often pause to play with or take pictures near the statues.

San Francisco resident Jaqueline Ramirez, 26, said it’s virtually impossible to keep her two children, ages 5 and 9, from climbing on the statues along Jefferson Street, and sees other kids doing so as well.

“You can’t keep them away,” she said about how kids are attracted to the statues. “They’ll see it and they’ll climb it, and you’ll tell them to get off. Sometimes parents are wandering, looking around; they can’t fully keep their eyes on the kids, [and] the kids will run on it and climb on it.”

Ramirez said she has never been scolded by a store owner when her kids have climbed on one of the statues.

“I know there are signs, but I’ve never seen them come out,” she said.

Shelley Auimatagi, an employee of the Pearl Factory, on the same block where the statue killed the boy, didn’t see Friday’s incident, but said she often sees children playing on statues on the sidewalk.

“The parents will walk before their children, the children will walk in back,” she said. “You know toddlers, they want to climb on it. … Seldomly you’ll hear a parent say ‘get off that.’” Campbell said he has seen fewer businesses in Fisherman’s Wharf obstruct the sidewalks with merchandise in the past few years, but believes it’s still a problem citywide and would like to see more shop owners follow the law.

“I think it’s one of those things where the police do their best, but they get a lot of criticism for enforcing things like that,” Campbell said.

Police said Majestic Collection Art Gallery, where the boy fell, was cited for placing an object or merchandise on a sidewalk where it impedes pedestrian traffic. A man behind the store counter on Monday declined to comment.

The Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District periodically circulates letters to business owners reminding them to keep sidewalks clear, but Campbell said he isn’t sure how many owners receive the letters. He hopes this will be a lesson for store owners who continue to block the sidewalk.

“Who would have thought that a heavy statue could fall over, that a 2-year-old could do that,” Campbell said. “It makes you wonder what kind of objects could do that.”

Drew Patterson, publisher of Bay City Guide, based in Fisherman’s Wharf and often handed out to tourists in the area, visited the site Monday to express his outrage at the dangers the statues pose.

“Enough is enough — we’ve now lost a child over this,” he said. Central Police Station Capt. David Lazar said officers will continue to enforce city code.

“We’ve been doing enforcement of this throughout the weekend, and we’ll continue to do so,” Lazar said. “We’ll work with the community benefit district to put out a new letter, partner with Port Authority, personally talk with the merchants about putting their stuff away and we’ll cite if we need to cite.”

Meanwhile, the boy’s family has returned to Utah, and an online fundraising website has been set up for his family to help with funeral expenses and other costs.

As of Monday evening, more than $16,000 had been raised toward a $20,000 goal. Donations can be made online to his parents, Toni and Scott Shelton.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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