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Missing Boy Found In Claw Machine

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Kael Ireland, a three-year-old boy in Lincoln, Nebraska, escaped from his family’s unlocked apartment a few nights ago while his mother was in the bathroom. He walked across the street and went into a bowling alley.

No, Kael didn’t want to go bowling, but he did want to play — in the bowling alley’s stuffed animal claw machine, called the Bear Claw.

The claw machine is a coin-operated arcade-type game for which the player has between 15 and 45 seconds, depending upon the machine, to remotely grasp a stuffed animal or other toy. The player maneuvers a claw crane left or right and backward or forward until the claw is directly above the object sought. Then a control is activated to lower the crane and grab the toy. The toy is then dropped, falling down a chute and out the machine’s prize door.

Kael managed to get through the machine’s prize door and crawl up into the main compartment. He was found inside the machine, playing with the stuffed animals. The bowling alley’s employees called the machine’s vendor, who unlocked the machine and got Kael out. Kael was given one of the stuffed animals as a souvenir of his adventure.

Apparently, it’s happened a number of times in the past that a child has crawled into this type of vending machine. In 2012, Noah Jeffrey, a three-year- old Australian boy, climbed into a claw machine. He sat for ten minutes enjoying the candies and playing with the Sponge Bob Square Pants toys. Fortunately in this case, his mother coaxed him to come out the same way he went in. One witness stated that Noah must have been “surprised no one tried to grab him with the claw.” Children involved in situations in which they explore claw machines can run out of oxygen and be subject to other dangers.

A boy climbed into a claw machine in a Wisconsin Walmart in 2010, and was rescued by firefighters. A three-year-old boy crawled into a claw machine in Minnesota in 2006, and was having such a good time playing with the toys, he refused to come out. A firefighter had to reach in and pull him out. Although it’s usually boys who pull this stunt, the security camera in a South Carolina store caught a girl climbing into a claw machine. The girl’s mother persuaded her to crawl back out.

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