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Inquiry into 7-month baby girl’s death finds she suffocated between mattress and bed rail

The Independent logo The Independent 9/10/2019 Anna Maria

Warning: Readers may find some of the detailed descriptions in the content of this article disturbing.


Singapore—The inquiry into the circumstances surrounding a baby girl who was found dead on January 15th of this year has resulted in the coroner calling the death an “unfortunate misadventure”.

The Straits Times (ST) reports that Yuri Chua Le En, who was seven months old at the time of her death, had already been trapped weeks before January 15 between the mattress of her bed and the railings. The infant had cried then, and was attended to.

The child slept in her own bed in the family’s apartment at Jurong East, separated from her parents, who happened to be sick during this time and did not want their child to catch their illness.

When Yuri’s father looked in on her at 7 o’clock on the morning of January 15, he found that she was unresponsive.

An emergency call was quickly made, but when paramedics arrived at the family’s flat, they pronounced her dead by around 8:00 am.

On Friday, October 4, the death of the baby girl was pronounced to be an “unfortunate misadventure” by State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam, and her death was certified to be consistent with suffocation by a forensic pathologist, Dr Chan Shijia, a consultant forensic pathologist with the Forensic Medicine Division of the Health Sciences Authority.

According to the Coroner, the pathologist had said that a seven-month-old baby who is developmentally normal is able to roll around a bed, but cannot climb or crawl effectively yet.

Therefore, should a baby end up into a gap by rolling into it, she or he may be unable to get out of that gap, which is why pediatricians and other childcare experts give new parents the ABCs of safe sleeping guidelines, which stands for “alone, back and crib.”

“The infant should not sleep in the same bed as others but not necessarily in a different room. There is always a risk of suffocation… when a larger person rolls over and the infant’s airway becomes blocked,” the Coroner explained.

She added that babies should sleep in the safest position for them, which is on their backs, as well as sleep in “well-built crib, free of loose bedding, pillows, and toys, which could cause entrapment or suffocation”.

The baby’s parents, who were not named in court documents, had just begun to sleep separately from her one month before she died, the coroner added. This was to allow her to “transition to the next stage of her development”.

The night before she died, the baby’s mother breastfed her at around 7:00 pm and then patted her until she slept at 9:00 pm.

Her father checked on her two hours later to adjust the air conditioning in her room. “He stated that the room was dark and (the baby) was not making any noise. Both parents stated that they did not hear (the baby) make any noise throughout the night,” according to court documents.

When her father found her the next morning, her saw that she was “almost fully trapped” within the gap between the mattress of the bed and railings. -/TISG

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