Katie Ann, Delaney, Payton
I will never forget what day the most terrifying incident of my life happened, because it occurred on my daughter’s 4th birthday. It was not only her actual birthday, but the incident occurred on our way home from her birthday party. We were all in really good spirits. The party was really fun for everyone, and the kids were a bit wound up on sugar and fun times. Before leaving the party, my husband stuffed a bunch of balloons in the back of my minivan. I had a bad feeling in my gut, and told him I didn’t want so many balloons blocking my rear window vision. Not wanting to be the bad guy, by not allowing my daughter to have her birthday balloons, I went against my better judgment, and allowed my husband to stuff them in the way back.
Katie Ann’s cousins wanted to ride with her, so we put their boosters in my car. After I checked to make sure everyone was belted in safely, we were off. The girls were singing and being silly and started pushing the balloons around. I told them not to push them up too far, because I didn’t want one getting up in front with me while driving. By the time we were home, all of the balloons were pushed up to the 2nd row, and they were right behind me, so I couldn’t see any of them. We were home though, and my oldest niece kept asking if they could get out of their seat belts. I said, “No, not until we have come to a complete stop.” Well, we came to a complete stop, and they must have jumped out at that moment before I turned the car off. Since I couldn’t see because of the balloons, I just told them to wait by the door, and I would open it. It’s a big step down, and I didn’t want them to all tumble out. In hindsight of course, I should have made them stay in their seat belts til I came around to open the door. In hindsight though, I would not have allowed those balloons in my car either.
Funny, looking back, how my biggest fear at this point was them tripping getting out of the vehicle. I turned the car off, walked around to the door that I knew they were at, and in all honesty I could not tell you at what point I heard something about a window and Payton’s head being stuck, because it was from that point on that I had never felt such unbelievable terror in all of my life. I understand how when you have been through something traumatic, it is hard to remember everything in detail, especially right after it happens! Before that it was just them all being loud, like they had been the whole ride home, and I remember hearing what must have been Payton saying, “Aunt Christine, Aunt Christine”, but it didn’t sound any different than the way they all were excitedly wanting to take their seatbelts off, and have me open the door for them, etc.. Please also remember that we are talking in seconds and nano seconds here. So, when I heard about a window, etc. I ran to the door, and when I saw Payton’s head stuck in the window of my car, well, it is impossible to describe the sheer terror that took over me. It was choking her. Her face was a reddish purple, and she was saying repeatedly, “Aunt Christine, Aunt Christine”.
I would like to say I was calm and cool, but I was truly hysterical. I started screaming at the two other children to open the window. I then tried to open the door, knowing that it being a sliding door, I would need to keep it from sliding all of the way with her head in the window. I just wanted to get her out. When I couldn’t open the door, I realized that the car was turned off, and I had to turn it on to get her out. I remember panicking, thinking, “what if I can’t find my keys”- I was afraid I had dropped them when I had run to the window.
I cannot remember when I dropped everything, but when my husband and my brother-in-law came home, the mail, my broken sunglasses and wallet were all laying in the driveway. All I know is that I remember being relieved that I had the keys, or found them, I really don’t remember. I think they were in my hands, but I truly can’t remember. As I ran back to the driver’s side to start my car, I remember thinking, “she’s going to die, oh, my god, she’s going to die, and it’s all my fault, oh, my god.” I screamed, “Help me!!!!” as I was running. I knew no one was around, but screamed out of sheer terror. It must have been when I screamed that my right contact went into the back of my eye, so now I could only see with one eye. God heard me though, because after I screamed I remember a loud, deep, low voice saying in my head, “Start the car, and open the window.”
This seems like such an easy task, under normal conditions, but I needed to keep telling myself what had to be done, since I was in a state of panic. I was shaking when I put the key in the ignition. I then pulled the other two children out of the car, saying, “Get out of the car, get out of the car – stay there and don’t move!” I am not sure why I did this. Your adrenaline is pumping so fast, and I think I wanted to make sure that I pulled the window down, instead of up, and due to the balloons and the other two children, and my panic, I wanted them out so I could get up close and make sure I was hitting the button properly. Of course, looking back, this was not smart either, but shows how unbelievably panicked I was. When I got the window down, she was thankfully OK, with just a reddish/purplish face, and a line across her neck where the window was strangling her. I immediately turned my car off, and brought them all inside, where we stayed together.
Once we had all calmed down – I was speaking calmly to them but still shaking unbelievably. I found out that my daughter was the one who had pulled the power window switch, thus pushing the window up onto Payton’s throat. Seeing what it did to her in just seconds, I can only imagine in my darkest nightmares what would have happened had she strangled by the window any longer. I could not believe something like this could happen to me. I am so safety conscious, and I couldn’t believe that I didn’t even check to make sure my window lock-out button was pushed. My husband often sits in the back with my daughter, who sits in the middle seat, and they had wanted the window opened, and I forgot to push the button back. This can also happen if you stop to ask directions, and need to open your passenger side window, and forget to push the button down after, with all the distractions you have with kids in your car!
What I really can’t believe is that the automobile industry thinks that having the toggle switch that my car has (I drive a 2005 Toyota Sienna), will prevent children from being strangled by power windows. Well, this is obviously not true. What is really needed is auto-reverse on all windows, including the sun-roof. They would act like garage doors, which when they detect something in their way, go back up, instead of crushing whatever is in their path. This is long overdue, and I cannot even believe that the automobile manufacturers can live with themselves knowing that so many children have been killed by power windows, when it could so easily be prevented. There is no reason why these windows should be made to come up with such deadly force.
The picture you see of the three cousins was taken the day after the incident, and I will always cherish it, and will always be so grateful that Payton is alive today. So many children have not survived power window strangulation, and these tragic and preventable deaths of children must be stopped.”