Infant dies after being left to feed alone in crib while father slept
By RYAN MILLS
Posted December 30, 2009 at 5:49 p.m.
Infant death incident report
NAPLES — Authorities are investigating the death of a 3-month-old baby who died early Tuesday after his father propped a bottle on the baby’s chest while the boy was in his crib, and then fell asleep while watching a movie.
“Supervision of the child is certainly something we will be looking at,” said Erin Gillespie, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Children and Families, which is investigating the death with Collier County sheriff’s deputies.
The boy’s father, Benjamin Roberto Garcia, 33, of 1831 55th Terrace S.W., Golden Gate, called his son’s death “an unfortunate accident.”
Garcia told investigators that around midnight he began feeding his baby, Christian, according to an incident report. Garcia said he placed Christian in his crib, placed two pillows on top of the baby’s chest, and then propped a bottle up against them to allow Christian to eat, reports said.
While the baby was eating, Garcia laid down in bed to watch a movie and then fell asleep, reports said.
When he awoke an hour to an hour-and-a-half later, Garcia smelled Christian’s soiled diaper. He lifted the baby from the crib, placed him on the bed and then changed his diaper, reports said.
When he finished changing the diaper, he noticed that Christian was lifeless, according to reports. He began compressions on Christian’s stomach, and noticed baby formula coming out of his mouth. When he attempted to give Christian a rescue breath, reports say he noticed more formula coming from his nose.
Garcia attempted to call his girlfriend and Christian’s mother, Shannon Beverly Bermingham, 28, who didn’t answer. He called for emergency response around 2:22 a.m., reports said.
When reached on the phone Wednesday, Garcia said he wasn’t sure if Christian was alive when he initially picked him up to change his diaper. He said that when he placed Christian on the bed, his arms fell to his sides.
“I just thought that he was sleeping,” Garcia said.
When deputies arrived, they found Christian warm to the touch, slightly blue and without a pulse. Collier County EMS transported Christian to Physicians Regional Medical Center at Pine Ridge, where he was pronounced dead.
Christian was just starting to laugh and squeal, and smiled when his parents talked to him in a cute voice, Garcia said. He said he and his girlfriend are handling the situation as best they can, and are getting a lot of support from family, friends and the church.
He said the investigators “could have been nicer,” and were not very compassionate.
“The baby choked. It was a bad accident,” Garcia said. “The baby just choked. That’s about all I would want to say.”
Garcia said he placed a bottle in bed with Christian “on occasion, not all the time,” adding that the baby’s crib was right next to his bed so he could keep an eye on him. He said he didn’t intend to fall asleep, but it was late.
It is unclear if anyone will be charged with a crime.
“It’s still an open death investigation,” Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Michelle Batten said.
Garcia said he has three other children, 12, 10 and 2 years old, and Bermingham has a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old. The children are staying with other family members while Garcia and Bermingham make funeral arrangements.
Gillespie said many parents aren’t educated about what can cause a young child to suffocate. Preferably, nothing should be in a crib with a child, she said, including blankets and pillows.
“Even propping a bottle up with pillows is a bad idea,” Gillespie said. “You just don’t want that kind of material around a child at all.”
Connect with Ryan Mills at www.naplesnews.com/staff/ryan-mills/
Breastfeeding saves lives. I am very sad for this family and for the loss of their baby. Those who argue that formula kills babies are wrong, though. If this baby had been breastfed, he would be alive today.