Parents Warn of Car Seat Danger After Baby Girl Asphyxiated at Day Care

Expert says that car seats are designed to protect a child in a crash, not for a child to sleep in, and they should never be left unattended.

One Texas couple is issuing a dire warning after their 17-month-old was found dead strapped into her car seat. 

“This is like lightening striking our soul," mother Lisa Smith told Inside Edition of the moment she learned what had happened to her daughter, Mia. "This isn't something that we had any idea could possibly happen to us,”
In June 2015, Mia was left unsupervised during nap time while strapped in a car seat on the floor. Her day care provider, Valerie Wackerly, stepped out to a doctor's appointment, but when she returned, Mia wasn't breathing. Wackerly did CPR while her husband called 911.

“One of the babies in my wife's day care is not breathing and her face is purple,” he said during the 911 call.

The husband said that the baby’s toes were blue and she had bubbles coming out of her mouth. 

At the hospital, the prognosis was grim. Mia died two days later. “I fell to the floor and absolutely cried my heart out,” Lisa said. She had no idea that Mia was in her car seat until investigators told her. 

“I literally chased the investigator out of the room, down the hall, 'Are you saying she was in a car seat?'” she recalled.

The official cause of death was "positional asphyxia," that is, when the head is not in the right position to be able to breathe. 

Registered nurse Sharon Evans, who works at Cook Children's Medical Center in Dallas, used a doll to illustrate to Inside Edition how a child can suffocate in a car seat.

“The head can fall forward and block airways,” she said. “They start moving around can get themselves caught and trapped. Sometimes they can slide down and something on the harness can also cause them to strangle.”

Evans points out that car seats are carefully designed to be used on a base and should have angle indicators like this to help you to secure them safely in a car.  

“They're designed for a crash, not ...  for a child to sleep in,” she said. 

Wackerly pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in 2016. “We knew from day one there was no malicious intent but she made a series of wrong decisions that cost my daughter her life,” Lisa said. 

Lisa and her husband, Chad Smith, want Mia's death to be a warning to everyone to never leave children unattended in car seats.

“Heartbreaking doesn’t describe it,” Lisa said. “This was so preventable. This should never happen to any family.”