sally clark photography » Colorado's kidographer

Masthead header

{ I was watching my daughter strangle to death … }

Normally I use this space to share artwork of happy families. Today I’m using it to send a message. I’ve been writing this blog post in my head since last Friday. Composing and re-composing … re-living the horror of an experience no parent and no child should ever have to go through. I am putting down my thoughts in hopes that it will prevent something like this from happening to anyone ever again.

Fridays are Mommy and Baylor time … the one special day of the week when my rapidly growing 5-year-old isn’t in preschool. Last Friday began with a beautiful breakfast at my other kids’ elementary school to commemorate the veterans in our community. After the breakfast ended I rushed Baylor out the door of the school to avoid being caught in the commotion of a planned fire drill. I shuffled Baylor into the minivan while I chatted with my friend, Aimee, who had pulled out of the slot next to mine and rolled her window down to talk for a bit. I left the sliding door open as I always do, but closed it when another car parked next mine began to pull out. Despite three noisy leaf blowers blaring in the background, our conversation shifted to politics and we continued talking for about 10 minutes.

Baylor is not my quiet kid, so I was pleased to think that she was peacefully reading in the car and not opening and closing the door incessantly. As I stood about five feet from my car I felt confident that she was in a safe place. I was so wrong.

You know that little voice in the back of your head? Mine started quietly reminding me that Baylor would normally be climbing over the seats or running around the parking lot or climbing a tree or finding some other way to distract me from my conversation. I ignored that voice one time, but the second time I decided to step away from our conversation to peek at Baylor. What I saw changed my life forever. She was standing in the third row of seats facing the back window. I knew something was wrong because she wasn’t moving. My first thought at that horrible moment was that she was dead. I told Aimee something was very wrong and quickly opened the back hatch. Baylor had apparently been playing with the seatbelts and got two of them tangled up and wrapped around her neck. I could tell she had been screaming and crying and her face was bright red. She lifted her head when the hatch opened and her big brown eyes looked right at me. The one positive was that her feet were still touching the seat, which may have been enough to keep it from completely cutting off her breathing. I’ll never know how long she was like that … but it was too long.

The next part is a bit of a blur. Aimee and I tried to unwrap the seat belts from around her neck, but as we tried to loosen them they got tighter. Over and over again Aimee kept encouraging Baylor and I to stay calm as we worked to free her. I frantically scrambled to find a key or anything sharp to unhook the middle seat belt from its latch so we could unwind it from around her neck (I had dropped my keys during the initial frantic moments when I climbed in the hatch to try and get her out). When we realized we were not going to be able to unwrap the seat belts and as they continued to get tighter, Aimee ran to the school to grab a pair of scissors. Bless her heart, because she kept running toward the school even as I was screaming her name.

I’m not sure I will ever be able to fully put into words how horrible the next few moments were. I was watching my daughter being strangled to death. I was frantically trying to find my keys or any sharp object to release the middle seat belt from its anchor. Baylor was turning purple and it was clear the situation was deteriorating quickly. I finally grabbed the keys from Aimee’s ignition and reached over the back seat to unhook the middle seat belt. I felt a brief moment of relief as I expected that to release the pressure around her neck, but nothing happened. The seat belts were so tight at that point I couldn’t unthread the middle seat belt from around her neck … it just wouldn’t budge.

Just then Aimee handed me the scissors. At that point I was having visions of sawing through the belt while watching as Baylor slipped away. Fortunately the scissors were sharp enough and cut right through. The seat belt STILL didn’t release at that point, but we were able to untangle and loosen the belts and pull Baylor from the car. She was limp and bright red, but she was also breathing and looking at me.

A long day at Children’s Hospital revealed that Baylor suffered no internal damage to her neck. She is still mad about the IV she endured for her CT scan and essentially equates all her aches and pains to “The Shot.” Her eyes have lost a bit of their sparkle and she is a bit subdued … which is saying a lot for Baylor. We have a long road ahead of us to ensure there is no long-term emotional damage for either of us. There have been many hugs and snuggles. It is difficult to drop her off at preschool, although I know how good it is for her.

The hardest part for me is overcoming the guilt. Everyone tells me things like this can happen to anyone and that they happen so fast. Deep down I know that is true, but that doesn’t erase the images in my head. As parents we vow to always be their for our kids, so it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that if even for a second I wasn’t there when Baylor needed me.

I keep reminding myself that this situation was scary, but fortunately not tragic. For that I do feel blessed. Our angels were looking out for us.

Love your kids, hug your kids, pay attention and please keep a seat belt cutter or scissors somewhere in your car. I don’t want this to ever happen to anyone again.

Thank you to CBS 4 in Denver for picking up this story. The word is getting out. I get shivers each time I read that someone has put scissors in their car … keep sharing!

” By the way, pretty much every parent I tell immediately recalls the time when one of their kids was in a life or death situation.
There is a reason we have to teach them not to stick forks in light sockets or run out in the street or put bags over their heads.
It doesn’t matter how kids get into those situations, because they will. Over and over and over.
It’s how we deal with those situations that truly matters.”
- Courtesy of my husband, Brian Clark

We are working hard to put the twinkle back in her eyes …


EDITED: I want to let you all know that I am reading EVERY SINGLE comment. While I may not get to reply to each and every one, I appreciate the outpouring of love and support we have received. More importantly, I am elated at the number of people of have put seat belt cutters and scissors in their vehicles.


11/22/2012 UPDATE:


We have SO much to be thankful for today. The bruising around Baylor’s neck and the petechiae that dotted her beautiful face have all but faded away. We have spent many many moments cuddling and snuggling. We have both gone to counseling and Baylor has had two cranial sacral/reiki treatments as well as a chiropractic adjustment. She seems to be adjusting beautifully. She isn’t in love with talking about it, but she wants me to … such a wise soul.

We appreciate the prayers and love we have received from around the world. It is so important for me to bring awareness to this issue and I am grateful for every person who has forwarded this along to their friends and family.

I am sending lots of love to my dear friend, Aimee, today. Her strength and love helped carry us through a very difficult time (and she helped save Baylor’s sweet life). I am so grateful to call her a friend.

I am forever thankful for my best friend. I have no words to express the depth of my love for him. He is compassionate and loving and kind and loves me for who I am. Love you, Brian.

And to my family … holding it together through thick and thin.


Sending out a big Thanksgiving hug to you all!

Schedule your own portrait playdate

Pin It
contact me
tweet this post
  • Lisa Holcomb - Just read this, and while I don’t have small children, I also will put a pair of scissors in my car, even though I have a pair in my purse. Another way to cut something quickly is bending your license plate in two, it will leave a very sharp edge. I have heard about people doing C-Sections on badly injured pregnant mothers who have been trapped in cars after a car accident. God Bless, and thankful that your beautiful daughter is safe and sound.

  • Chris - Wow. As a parent you try to safeguard against everything, but the truth of the matter is even the most vigilant parents simply cannot stand at watch EVERY SECOND of every day. I had always meant to buy one of those window hammer/belt cutters just in case of an accident, but never got around to it. After reading your story however, that has just moved to the top of my list. Thank you for sharing.

  • Reuben - I kept reading your story with the hope you managed to save her in the end… and I’m so relieved you did… Praise the Almighty!
    Thanks for spreading the word…
    This has reached Mauritius :-) I’m sharing!
    God bless you and yours :-)

  • Natalie - Amazing testimony. In the next to the last paragraph you wrote, ” As parents we vow to always be their [sic] for our kids, so it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that if even for a second I wasn’t there when Baylor needed me.” But you were there for her! I’m glad you were there for her.
    Just wanted to share that!!!

  • Megan Rich - My heart was aching as I read your words and I am still in tears! I’m so sorry you went through that but I’m grateful your precious child is still here to hug and snuggle you. I pray for strength and courage for you when criticism shows it’s ugly head. We cannot watch our children every second of every day and things happen so fast. I’ve had many conversations with a girlfriend after I’ve put my son in the car. The people who criticize you are more than likely people who have no children and don’t have a clue what they are talking about. God bless y’all!

  • Sandie - I’m so glad that this had a good outcome! However, please be aware that “reiki” is a spiritual thing. And they are not good spirits. Here is an article you may be interested in:
    Just thought you should know. Our souls are as precious as our physical beings.

  • Sandie - I’m so glad this had a good outcome! However, I think you should be aware that “reiki” is a spiritual thing. And they are not good spirits. Here is an article on the subject: Just thought you should know. Our spirits are as precious as our physical beings.

  • Kathryn Ipock - Thanks so much for sharing your story. I will keep a pair of scissors in the car from now on. Please do not feel guilty anymore. Accidents happen. I’m sure your post will help others!

  • judy - You know this reminds me of a time in 1983 when my daughter was 19 months old. I had just had another daughter and my neighbor had given me a baby shower. I was standing outside on the porch playing peek-a-boo with my daughter. She was in a high chair eating. I didn’t realize it at the time but she was choking. My mother-in-law had given her some potato salad and it was in chunks. She didn’t chew her food well. I noticed thatshe just sitting there not making a sound. All of s sudden she turned shret white. I stuck my finger in her mouth and pulled out a month full of food. I thought she was okay then. After that I waited a second and she started turning purple then in a flash she was purple. I knew then she was in serious trouble. I unstraped her and slapped her hard on the back. No results. She was still blue. I then begin to pull more food from her mouth. The whole time thinking that if I panicked she could sense it and die right there in my arms. I took her and bent her forward at the same time pulling food from her mouth. Finally her color was coming back from being gray by that time. Slowly her color came back but it was a close call. I was so thankful that I was there with her or we would have lost her that day. Thank you Jesus for being there and not letting me panic. She is a healthy 33 year old today. God bless your family.

  • Allie - I happened across your story through a friend of a friend on Facebook. I am sorry you had to experience such a horrible event! I am also extremely elated that everyone is physically okay.

    Fortunately I wanted to let you know that the sparkle you think of will return. Children are so very resilient. I wish I knew how to post a picture on here. It would be of my 5 year old daughter, yesterday- just glowing after her first dance recital. It has been 2 years since she was viciously attacked our family friends 14 year old family dog, leaving her with scars across her face that will remind her of the accident everyday. Yet, her eyes still sparkle. (And she lOVES dogs) It has been only 1 year since she was happily playing at the beach by the shoreline with her bucket as I watched a giant wave crash ontop of her as the tide moved in, quickly sweeping my 4 year old out into the water in a strong rip tide. But today her eyes are sparkling as we pack our cooler for our first trip to the beach this summer.

    I hope your daughter recovers from this traumatic event as mine has. Chances are she will. And good luck to you, Momma. I seriously think when things like this, these horrible accidents, happen- it is we that are more traumatized than our oh so resilient children. <3

  • Carson - When I was young I would always carry a knife. Then at some point I stopped carrying it for some reason. Then I heard a story about a mother in California that was involved in an accident, and her car caught fire with her little baby in it. A man passing by came and tried to rescue the baby, but he was unable to release the mechanism. He was calling out “does anyone have sciscors? does anyone have a knife?”, but no-one had anything that he could use to cut the straps. Carrying a knife used to be common-place, but not anymore. Now it is mocked with posts like “whenever I see initials carved in a tree I think ‘who carries a knife on a date?’” After I heard that account, I decided to start carrying a pocket-knife again. Maybe it never makes a major difference loke saving a life, but it hurts nothing, and I’d rather have it and not need it then need it and not have it.

  • lori - made me cry, and sent shivers down my spine, i have three children, all boys, and they scare the heck outta me, im so sorry you had to go through this , and dont beat yourself up, you saved your little girls life… so glad to hear it turned out the way it did, thank god for your friend!

  • MandyKat - Thank you for sharing your story! I can’t imagine what you’ve been going through between the fear and the guilt. We women generally try to be super mom, but please remember that is an impossible standard. Besides, our children will always see us as superheros anyway. God bless!

  • Jeania - I am so thankful that God has angels watching over all of us and that Baylor is OK and there’s no rhyme or reason for you to feel guilty , I know its hard but just be thankful your friend was there to help you. I’m sorta ocd but I have to carry all sort of stuff in my van. I carry scissors but never imagined a situation like that happening. I have 4 children grown and 5 grandchildren and have been in several unimaginable situations you’d never think of unless you had experienced them but the one thing I learned is God is always on time , never to late. Although God’s time isn’t always on our time table he is never late and I thank him and praise him for making sure your friend was there to help you, he always has his angels watching over us and that voice that insisted you check on Baylor was not a coincidence it was a blessing. Thank you for sharing your story to help make us all aware that anything can happen. Thee is a tool you can buy that I recently saw. It was a multi task tool. It had a seatbelt cutter , it could be as crew driver, flashlight and window buster just in the case that you got trapped in your car and was very inexpensive.. I am thankful you are all safe and well. May God bless you and keep you safe always. Sincerely

  • Crystal Gordon - This almost had me in tears while I am at work. I am SO very happy you were able to save your precious baby. Sending love from one mom to another

  • larry - I read your story it moved me greatly. thanks for everything turned out okay. Things happen beyond our control. You have to be strong enough to learn from it and let it go. Your daughter will sense your feelings. if you keep a positive outlook on it so will she. if you let it hold you down it will also affect her. keep smiling life is good

  • Leona - And nowhere during this frantic effort to save your daughters life did you or your friend think to call 911 or at the very least scream for someone else to call 911? I am so sorry you had to go through that tho. I know what it feels like to watch your daughter die and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. My beautiful step daughter died from chemo overdose when she was only 3 yrs old. It is a mothers worse nightmare.

  • sally - Thanks, Leona … we were definitely yelling. Nobody else was around and we were too busy trying to free her from the seatbelt to find or pick-up a phone.

  • Jennifer - Just want to let you know I got hit by a car right in front of my parents faces when I was 6 ! It took me awhile to overcome and i was traumatized for awhile . The sparkle will come back ! I promise ! Please don’t feel guilty things happen right in front of our faces ! Things happen in seconds ! It’s out of our control . Children are resilient ! Good luck and best wishes .

  • Wendy - It is truly beautiful that you had the strength to publish this story even though it surely made you relive it over and over. You have saved someone’s life by sharing your near tragedy. May you and your family continue to heal.

  • Lisa - I started keeping these in my car before I even had kids. Handy tool to have around. One end cuts belts and the other smashes glass.

  • Alisa - I read your article about two months ago and thought about putting scissors in my car, BUT didn’t. Since my kids are 7 and 8 I didn’t think this would happen to them. Today, my son wrapped the seat belt around his neck to wear it as a necklace. Things went down hill fast. Within seconds it was tight only an inch before it would be strangling him. I was holding the belt so it wouldn’t get worse. Thankfully I was at a gas station and was able to get help and a pair of scissors!!! My son is fine. $400 for a new seatbelt. Thanking God today! And thank you for sharing your story. I have scissors in my car now.

  • Jim - Extremely happy your child is okay, but your title says that she died and it was horrible to read knowing a child died. There is a HUGE difference between saying “strangled to death” or just “strangled.” Or better yet, “nearly to death.” Again, so very happy she’s fine, but wow, don’t tell everyone that it was “to death” since it was not. Keep well

  • Syrinna - Thank the Lord that you listened to that second voice. Thank the Lord Baylor is going to be ok, and thank the Lord that both you and Aimee kept a cool head. I had something similar happen when my kids were very little, my daughter and son was 4 & 3 when I put them down for a nap, after about 15 to 20 minutes I was thinking it was to quiet to soon for them, I went in a peaked at them and my daughter had wrapped the vanishion (spelling?) blinds cord around my sons neck, he was just starting to turn blue when I walked in. Thank the Lord he was ok and that I walked in when I did. Things like that do happen very fast, to this day now having a grandson from my daughter I watch very carefully, I am told I am to protective sometimes…but I don’t care he will always be safe with me. Thank you for sharing that story, it put just another reminder to those of us that read it that things like this happen so fast.

  • Pamela - I just want to say that this really touched my heart. I have 4 boys. They are my heart and God’s little angels. He was not ready for your daughter to come to him yet. God knew that she needed more time with you. God is good all the time and all the time God is good. Bless you and your family.

  • Becky - Another situation I stress for people to know is making sure to have toy boxes that have holes in the sides.
    Growing up I had this beautiful hand-made wood toy box with my name carved on the top and two hearts cut out of either side. I never fully understood why I had the cutouts until I asked my mom. She then told me about a family friend who also had a wooden toy box like mine, but without the cutouts. Their son was playing inside of it, like most kids do when they see the box…they like the box more than the toys, and while he was playing in it the lid shut on him and he suffocated to death.
    So PLEASE parents, anything your kids can crawl into with a lid, like a toy box, make sure there’s always an air hole of sorts.

  • Diana - All my children are grown but I do have grandkids in my car sometimes. I will be putting a pair of scissors in my glove box. After reading so much about children being forgotten in hot cars, I will also be leaving my purse in the back seat anytime I’m out with them alone. You just never know what could get your attention that would possibly cause us to forget.

  • Chia Sampson - Thid happened to my daughter but around her waist…it kept getting tighter and tighter…I was freaking out when I realized I had to cut the belt thank God for seat belt cutters….

  • Nikki - I lost my 5 year old nephew due to strangulation on safety blinds.
    I feel your pain. I’m so glad Baylor is ok and on the mend.

  • Adrienne Lepore - This same thing happened to my son! My kids were waiting in the car in my driveway while I finished getting the car packed for a trip. My other kids started screaming and crying. When I ran out my son was essentially in a noose. He was sitting in his seat. Everything I did made it tighter. I can’t imagine what would have happened if his older brother was not there to run and get the scissors. I held two fingers between the seat belt and my sons neck until we cut him loose. We were very lucky that day. He was not hurt at all but the outcome could have been tragic. I called the car company. They were completely unphased.

  • Road Trip with Children Packing List for Safety and Sanity - […] It’s important to stow a pair of scissors in your car’s glove box for safety’s sake. Children sometimes do silly things when mom and dad aren’t looking…like get themselves tangled up in their seat belt. This can lead to strangulation. Read about firsthand experiences with seat belt near-strangulation accidents here and here. […]

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *