An 8-year-old girl who is believed to have suffocated on a Mylar balloon likely passed away while she entertained her younger brother with the oversized inflatable, her family told InsideEdition.com.
Little Jaina Vue McGloghlon insisted she be allowed to plan her dad’s birthday party on Feb. 24 and set out to throw a Star Wars-themed bash at their Portland, Oregon, home.
“She wanted Star Wars balloons and lots of balloons for her daddy,” her mother, My Ying, wrote in her daughter’s obituary.
After planning the party, Jaina asked that two of the balloons they purchased be left with her and her 18-month-old brother, Jacen, after they went to bed in their shared room. Her father, Michael, found her 30 minutes later with one of the balloons over her head, her mom wrote.
He and emergency responders tried to revive the girl for more than an hour.
“We were allowed time with her before they had to take her,” My Ying wrote.
Officials believed the little girl “was trying to make her little brother laugh by putting the balloon over her head,” her mother wrote. “The combination of a tired child and inhaling helium with no oxygen caused her to fall asleep and (she) eventually passed away.”
Family members said Jaina was an artistic child who was wise beyond her years.
“It doesn’t surprise me because she was such a little entertainer. I’m sure she’s seen people make crazy helium voices before, (that’s why) she would do something like that. That’s what she was all about—entertaining people,” her uncle, Donny McGloghlon, told IE.
One of the first grandchildren in a large extended family, Jaina was never shy, her uncle said.
“She was super creative,” he said. “She was just this huge beaming light… she was the one who could always turn things around.”
Jaina assumed the role of big sister easily, happy to share everything with little Jacen, who, like his older sister, was named after a ‘Star Wars’ character.
“She played with him. She shared her toys with him. If he climbed on stuff, she was always the one to grab him and get him down,” Donny McGloghlon said.
The cherished child’s death, which investigators ruled an accident, has left her family devastated.
“I don’t think anyone can ever prepare anybody for anything like this,” Donny McGloghlon said, choking up.
“It’s really hard for my brother. She was daddy’s girl for sure,” he continued. “And it’s really hard on (her mother). I think the first few days, she felt a lot of guilt, things that she wishes she could change. There’s just a lot of sadness. They’re going to miss out on a lot.”
The family said they were stunned that he use of a party item could end in such a tragedy.
“I don’t think anybody in the family will ever buy balloons for a party again just because… there was no way to expect this possible outcome,” Donny McGloghlon said. “I used to make funny voices with helium all the time as a kid. Whenever there was a balloon around, that’s what we did. I would never expect this.”
While many balloons are used safely by many consumers on a regular basis, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that balloons are linked to more suffocation deaths than any other children’s product.
But the organization wrote that “accidents involving balloons tend to occur in two ways,” noting that they usually occur when a child attempts to inflate the balloon or accidentally swallows one they were sucking or chewing on.
Mylar and paper balloons were believed to be a safer option than latex ballons, according to California-based pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene, who wrote about the dangers of balloons on his physician website.
"Mylar and paper balloons are far safer than latex balloons," Greene wrote.
“It’s (a) complete shock,” Donny McGloghlon said.
The devastated uncle, who Jaina’s mother wrote she thought of as a second dad, created a fundraising page to help his brother and sister-in-law with funeral costs.
“Please help me remember Jaina Vue my beautiful niece,” he wrote on the Generosity.com page, which had raised almost $7,500 in the week since the girl's death.
To donate to the McGloghlon family, click here.
Relatives also hoped to see Jaina’s name immortalized in the film franchise she so loved and was named after, taking to social media to campaign for her name to be used for a new character.
“She would be so thrilled to be a character in Star Wars I can just see her face beaming with pride,” her family wrote on the Facebook page, 'Jaina for Star Wars.'
Friends and family who wished to pay their respect could do so from 12 to 8 p.m. local time on Wednesday at Gateway Little Chapel of the Chimes at 1515 NE 106th Ave. Funeral services will be held on Thursday at 11 a.m. at the same location.
Jaina will be laid to rest privately at Willamette National Cemetery.
"She was just such an amazing little girl," Donny McGloghlon said. "We just want to remember her and how great a little spirit she had."