In October 2017, Sadie Grace Andrews was playing with her siblings in a grassy area near Bruster’s Real Ice Cream in Auburn, Alabama, when she fell into the restaurant’s grease trap and drowned. Yet, as Sadie’s parents had hoped, her death, their worst nightmare, was not in vain. It prompted a new law to better protect children and other patrons of restaurants across Alabama.
Months after Sadie’s tragic death, State Senator Tom Whatley proposed legislation that would become the Sadie Grace Andrews Law. It was signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey in April 2018. The law requires grease trap covers to include locking mechanisms, such as a bolt or lock, and to be strong enough to withstand the weight of a person or a vehicle without opening accidentally.
Critics of the law claim it is government overreach, but the Andrews family’s experience demands safer grease disposal systems and oversight to ensure compliance.
The grassy, open area next to the outdoor tables beckoned children to play while their families enjoyed their ice cream. That is what Sadie and her siblings did.
While running across the grass, Sadie stepped on the hidden grease trap covering. The covering was unsecured and in poor condition, so it flipped open. She then fell into the 6-foot-deep grease pit full of sludge. After the toddler fell in, the covering flipped back in place. This trapped her inside and prevented others from finding her until it was too late. When she was found, she could not be revived.
Bruster’s was responsible for maintaining the property while Tuf-Tite, Inc. produced the grease trap’s defective plastic covering. Tuf-Tite sold a safety lid designed to “help prevent anyone (especially children) from falling into” the system, but the extra equipment was optional.
The Sadie Grace Andrews Act
The Act went into effect June 1, 2018. Restaurants and other commercial food establishments had until December 2018 to comply. The Act’s provisions charged the Alabama Department of Public Health with implementing rules for compliance. Department health inspectors have begun checking to see if establishments meet the requirements as part of their routine inspections.
Those found lacking face a $100 fine each day they are out of compliance. The city of Mobile has also approved a local fine – $100 a day – in addition to the state-levied fines. Local health department officials explained that it gives added strength to the new regulation and helps encourage compliance.
After signing the law, Gov. Ivey said she hopes the Act keeps other families from suffering the same tragedy as befell the Andrews family.
The Andrews family hopes the law will serve as a model for other states. The family’s faithful testimony has affected many lives in their community, and they are also working to establish the Sadie Hope Ministries as a way to help other families dealing with the loss of a child and sibling.