What Happened To The Water Wiggle? Toy Banned After Jon Christopher McCabe Death

Water Wiggle were notorious toys banned for taking the life of a child. How did this devasting incident happen?

Children’s toys are probably the last thing anyone could imagine to be dangerous. But, death from the choking hazard of small toys is actually very common among young people. 

However, one toy took it took far when even a father couldn’t take out the toy from his son’s throat. The saga of “Water Wiggle” led to an ugly public lawsuit, its downfall and ultimately the end of the toy. 

What Happened To The Water Wiggle? 

Water wiggle was banned after choking a boy to death. 

Water Wiggle was a very popular product from Wham-O Manufacturing company during the 1960s and early 1970s. Officially launched in 1962, it was an instant hit for the company. In fact, Wham-O sold around 2.5 million units of water wiggles in 17 years. 

Despite being an old technology, the toy was not your normal dimensional playmate. It was comprised of an aluminium water-jet nozzle enveloped by a bell-shaped plastic head and attached by a seven-foot plastic pipe.

The toy was specifically designed to be attached to a garden hose. Retailed at around $3.50 USD at that time, it was supposed to make bathtime and water time fun for everyone. 

However, everything went south after the toy took the life of a child. Ultimately, it was banned from all stores and parents were advised to dispose of their water wiggle for their children’s safety. 

How did Water Wiggle Cause Jon Christopher McCabe Death?

Water wiggle toys were banned following Jon Christopher McCabe death.

On March 25, 1978, 4 years old Jon was playing with the toy along with some other children in his backyard. However, the bell-shaped head accidentally came out of the nozzle and the nozzle lodged in his mouth.

His 7 years old brother, Joey, immediately turned the water off and rushed inside to get their father. Jon’s father tried everything to remove the nozzle. He reportedly used a butter knife to cut the hose. However, the water wiggle didn’t budge an inch.

Eventually, McCabe died by accidental drowning. His lungs and body were filled with water as he took his last breath in his father’s arm. 

Lawusit Following McCabe Death

The horrific death of McCabe triggered a million-dollar lawsuit against Wham-O. The parents demanded over $1 million USD in damages and attorney fees. The researchers at Wham-O accepted that the toy was potentially dangerous. 

Even Joey, who was already 10 at the time of trial, testified in the court. He had to recall the final moments of his younger brother as he saw him struggling in the backyard. 

Nonetheless, McCabe’s demise was not the first case related to Water Wiggle. In 1975, 3 years old Marcus Maloney passed away from an identical Water Wiggle accident. The case was settled after a lawsuit and monetary settlement. 

Around 85,000 units of water wiggles were returned after the case. On April 13, 1978, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the ban on the sale of water wiggles. 

In 1986, Wham-O released a safer version of Water wiggle. However, the product never reached its precedent’s glory. Today, there is no mention of the toy on their website.