On September 22, 2011 our lives changed forever.
My husband, Nathaniel, was driving Miles (2 years old at the time) home at rush hour. Miles chats and sings in the car and when it became quiet in the back seat, Nathaniel started to wonder if he had fallen asleep when he heard, “”Daddy, Help!”” He turned around and saw that Miles had the car’s seat belt wrapped around his neck. He swerved off the road and got out of the car (turning the car off).
When he got to Miles he discovered that the seat belt was locked and retracting back into the car. Every time Miles moved, it got tighter and tighter and he started to scream. Nat tried to free him, but he soon discovered that no matter what he did and how hard he pulled, Miles was quickly being strangled.
I owe my son’s life to my husband. He quickly decided to unbuckle Miles from his car seat and position him in such a way that he was holding him up in mid-air with the part of the belt that was crossed over itself right in front of Miles’ airway to make sure he was able to breathe. He then called 911 and waited the longest 7 minutes of his life.
Miles was screaming and crying (which was a blessing because it meant that he was still breathing). A state trooper arrived on the scene first and tried to help Nat free Miles and could not. She started to panic and said that she did not have anything to cut the seat belt with.
Several minutes later, the paramedics and fire police arrived on the scene and one of them had a knife and was able to saw through the seat belt and free my son from his noose.
They rushed Miles and my husband into one of the ambulances waiting for them and rushed him to the trauma center at the local hospital. Miles suffered multiple ligature marks from the pressure of the belt on his neck, as well as thousands of broken blood vessels all over his face and scalp. The trauma physician, paramedics and fire police kept commenting how lucky we were to have our son alive.
Miles did not suffer any long term medical complications and is a strong, growing boy. Despite the fact that we rarely bring up the incident in front of Miles, he has a tremendous memory. At 3 and a half, he will bring it up occasionally saying, “”Mommy, remember when I got stuck in Daddy’s car and the fireman had to rescue me and I got to ride in an ambulance? Remember Daddy tried to help me but he couldn’t get me out?”” It breaks my heart to be reminded by my toddler of this horrible incident. No parent should ever have to go through what we did with our child.
I have written to Toyota several times to alert them of the incident and they have been quite clear that they acknowledge that our son was nearly strangled to death, but the locking mechanism did exactly what it was supposed to and they will not “”honor my claim””.
My campaign, along with several other parents is to increase awareness and help parents realize the simple danger that is in every car. When a car seat is installed via the latch system, my car manual says, “”there is no need to use the car’s existing seat belt”” and it hangs loose in the car. Please lock that seat belt behind the car seat and out of a child’s reach.
We were blessed to have our son safe and only harmed temporarily by this incident. There have been children killed by this hazard and it is senseless to think it would ever happen to another child.
– Heather Stube (Miles’ Mother)