What was supposed to be a fun day at the fair in Henrico, Va., quickly took a turn for the worse when 6-year-old Samantha Swartwout and her father were returning home. Their car swerved off the road and hit a tree. While the impact would’ve caused minor injuries to the father and daughter duo, Samantha incurred life-threatening injuries due to two common seatbelt safety mistakes for children: leaving the booster seat at home and not wearing the belt properly.
Samantha’s mom, Shelly Martin, told Kidspot that her daughter appeared to outgrow her booster seat — so she was no longer using the seat while traveling in the car.
“A lot of people seem to think that when the children don’t fit so easily in the booster, that it’s OK to take them out of the booster. That’s not the case,” Martin explained.
Another mistake was that the young girl had moved the shoulder portion of the belt to be behind her back, causing the life-threatening injuries.
“Samantha also moved the shoulder belt behind her. So now the lap belt was carrying twice the force and, because she’s not tall enough without a booster, the lap belt went across her stomach instead of her hips. Doctors call the injury this caused ‘the seat belt syndrome,’” said Martin.
When 17-year-old Lauren Kenny was the first to arrive on the scene, Samantha was unconscious with a slice through her abdomen, exposing her intestines.
“I immediately yanked the door open, because I could see blood everywhere,” said Kenny.
When Samantha arrived at hospital, Dr. Charles Bagwell, who led the team of ER doctors, said the 6-year-old was almost cut in two.
“Where you could see the stripe of the seat belt in an enormous bruise across her abdomen, as well as the fact that the edge, the far edge of the belt, had actually cut through her abdominal wall and she had protruding intestines from that. She was just about cut in two. Much of which, quite frankly, couldn’t be repaired. The injury was too severe,” Dr. Bagwell told NBC12.
Samantha has since returned home to heal, but Martin said she will always feel guilt over what happened to her daughter. The young girl can’t return to school until January due to the severity of her injuries.
While Samantha is recovering from her injuries which requires very little movement, her mother is using this incident to help other parents understand the importance of correct seatbelt safety.
“We should’ve done better. This was completely avoidable.”