Three children have died in Florida after becoming trapped in an unplugged freezer, according to police.
The children, aged one, four and six, were playing outside their home before allegedly climbing into the unit, which had been left in the garden.
Two women living at the property in Live Oak found the children but were unable to resuscitate them.
Police say foul play is not suspected, but the case will be sent to the state attorney’s office for review.
In a statement, the Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) said it believed the three had suffocated after a latch fell shut on the chest freezer and trapped them inside.
“Words can’t describe how heartbroken I am,” Sam St John, Suwannee County Sheriff, said at a press briefing.
“Any time you deal with children and something like this and when they die from something like this nature, it just tugs at your heartstrings.”
According to local press, the one-year-old girl and her six-year-old brother were living with their grandmother at the property. The siblings’ four-year-old friend and her mother also lived there.
Police say the mother had been supervising the children outside the property in Live Oak, northern Florida.
“She had to go inside to the restroom,” said Sheriff St John. “She was gone for 10 or 15 minutes; when she came back they were gone.”
After noticing their disappearance, she woke up the grandmother who had been asleep preparing to work a night shift, the SCSO said.
The two searched the property and a home next door and later found the children inside the freezer, not breathing. The children were taken to hospital but none survived.
The Florida Department of Children and Families has launched an investigation into the incident.