The parents of a Colorado toddler who died in a car seat last week are speaking out about the tragic death in the hope that it serves as a warning to others.
Ashley Garcia and Elisha Deal spoke to KDVR reporters about the circumstances of the death of their 18-month-old daughter Eliyah.
Deal, the father of the little girl, found the toddler unresponsive in her car seat inside the family’s southwest Denver home late last week, according to the report.
‘Slowly Lost Oxygen’
“Eliyah fell asleep in her car seat the morning of February 14th,” the parents wrote on a GoFundMe page set up to help with funeral costs, adding, “Her head tilted to the left against the car seat strap.”
“She fell asleep against the strap here,” Garcia, the mother, told reporters, gesturing with her hand toward the side of her neck to indicate where the car seat belt made contact with her daughter.
“Little by little, she slowly lost oxygen,” she added.
The child was rushed to an area hospital, where she was hooked up to a breathing machine and briefly regained her heart beat. Sadly, the following day, the child died.
“Eliyah passed away at 4:35 p.m. February 15th with her mother and father as well as all the love and support from her family,” the parents wrote.
The family has not yet received a report from the medical examiner formally indicating the cause of death, but Garcia said doctors told her that, essentially, the toddler’s heart gave out.
“She went without oxygen,” Garcia explained, adding, “They said she was pretty much having a heart attack.”
‘Would Have Been Different’
“Eliyah Faith Deal was our greatest gift we could have ever received,” the parents wrote on GoFundMe. “We were blessed with her presence, her innocence, and her beauty. She was the youngest of four children and the light of our lives.”
Garcia told KDVR that had the couple known not to leave their daughter in the car seat, her tragic death might have been averted.
“It would have been different if we would have known to take her immediately out of her car seat,” the girl’s mother said.
The family said that now “we only wish to give our baby the funeral service she deserves.”
‘Worst Call I’ve Ever Had’
Last August saw a similar case make headlines, with ABC affiliate WFAA reporting that a Texas 18-month-old died while napping in a car seat.
“I got a call while I was at work,” the girl’s mother, Lisa Smith, said. “Worst call I’ve ever had in my life. ‘Drop everything. Mia didn’t wake up from her nap.’”
The little girl’s cause of death was ruled positional asphyxia, which is when a person’s position restricts their breathing.
Sharon Evans, a trauma injury prevention coordinator at Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth, told WFAA that people responsible for the care of children should take extra precautions when the little ones are in car seats.
“There’s nothing about the car seat that’s designed to sleep,” said Evans, according to the station. “Of course, if the straps aren’t tight, the child can kind of slump down.”
— Cook Children's (@CookChildrens) August 21, 2018
Smith told the station that many parents aren’t aware of the hazards of letting their children fall asleep in products not designed for safe sleeping.
“I walk around town and see people using a car seat on the seats at restaurants or putting them on the floor at tables,” Smith said. “I literally walk up to people and I say, ‘You know, I had a daughter who was seventeen-and-a-half months who passed away and I just want you to be really careful.’”
According to a safe sleep brochure circulated by New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), a car seat should never be used as a designated sleeping area, particularly in the case of very young children.
“All babies, from birth to 12 months old, are at risk for sleep-related injury deaths,” ACS writes in the brochure.
The brochure said that other structures like carriers, swings, or bouncers, can be equally dangerous.
“Because babies don’t lie flat in car seats, they can suffocate when their heads (which are very heavy compared to the rest of their bodies), tip forward, blocking their airway,” the ACS explains. “These products are not made for babies to sleep in and are dangerous because babies are not sleeping flat on their backs.”
If a child does fall asleep in a car seat, carrier, swing, bouncer, or similar product, the ACS recommends immediately moving them to a flat, firm surface.