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Toddler Dies After Air-Bag Injury in Fender-Bender

September 24, 1998|JOHN CANALIS

A toddler injured by an air bag in an otherwise minor weekend car crash died Tuesday at UCI Medical Center in Orange, the CHP said.

California Highway Patrol Officer Denise Medina said the accident that killed Sheila Vindedahl's 2-year-old son underscores the need for proper use of child safety seats. The boy was in a car seat secured to the front passenger seat when the accident occurred Saturday on Pacific Coast Highway near Broadway. The Geo Prizm's air bag deployed and fractured the child's neck when Vindedahl, who lives in Huntington Beach, rear-ended a car at a stoplight.

The boy, whose name was not released, died Tuesday when he was taken off life support. His mother was treated for minor injuries.

"He was a beautiful baby," said Sharon Vindedahl, the child's grandmother. "Just getting the news that there was a car accident and the baby wasn't breathing was just overwhelming. It's been so hard."

Medina said parents should follow car-seat safety rules, which typically are posted on the seats.

Similar accidents around the nation have drawn attention to the fact that "air bags and car safety seats don't mix," Medina said. "If you have a child safety seat, the best place for that child is in the rear."

For cars that do not have back seats, Medina suggested turning off the passenger-side air bags to protect the baby.

"If you have an air bag and don't have that [shut-off] feature, we suggest you don't even put that child in that situation," Medina said.

Medina said the cause of the accident, whether mechanical or driver error, is being investigated. Investigators also are trying to determine Vindedahl's speed in the 40-mph zone.

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