Patrol: Child thrown to death in Minnesota rollover not properly restrained
MINNEAPOLIS The State Patrol says that a 3-year-old girl probably would still be alive if she had been properly restrained in a car seat during a rollover on a Coon Rapids highway exit ramp. Narjes al-Ahmad was thrown out the rear driver's side w...
The State Patrol says that a 3-year-old girl probably would still be alive if she had been properly restrained in a car seat during a rollover on a Coon Rapids highway exit ramp.
Narjes al-Ahmad was thrown out the rear driver's side window when the car crashed on Wednesday afternoon on the westbound Hwy. 10 ramp to Foley Boulevard, patrol Lt. Eric Roeske said Thursday.
"We have the tragedy of a loss of a child because the restraint was not used properly," Roeske said. "If the child had been in a seat -- and it was used properly -- the child probably would not have been ejected."
A family friend said that the girl's mother, who was driving, was conscientious about buckling her children up and that she is devastated.
State law requires that children under 4 feet 9 inches or 8 years old and younger be in a car safety seat. It takes only 30 seconds to a minute to properly secure a child in a harness-type style seat, said Heather Darby, a Department of Public Safety official who specializes in child passenger safety.
The girl's mother, Zaman A. El Taji, 28, of Coon Rapids, and El Taji's cousin and front-seat passenger, Alla T. Abuahmed, 20, of Anoka, were wearing seat belts and sustained minor injuries.
El Taji, Abuahmed and Narjis were headed home after grocery shopping when the crash happened, said Zaidan Wazwaz, a family friend and neighbor. Wazwaz said El Taji normally strapped the toddler in; on Wednesday, he said, it's possible the seat wasn't fastened securely or that somehow Narjis found a way to get loose.
"She always had the kids buckled up," Wazwaz said. "Sometimes little kids know the tricks to unbuckle."
Wazwaz described Narjes as a "bubbly, loving sweetheart" who liked to sing, draw and dance. She had been playful and grabbing at things at the grocery store, he said.
El Taji, who also has a 2-year-old son, was in shock on Thursday. "She is hurt, and her heart is torn apart," Wazwaz said. "She was a caring mother. Caring for her kids was a top priority. She'd do anything for her kids, even die for them."
Roeske said a state reconstruction team will analyze the evidence in an attempt to determine a cause of the crash. No other vehicles were involved, he said.
El Taji appears to have a clean driving record but has had her license only since April, Roeske said.
He said it could take several weeks to complete the investigation before results are handed over to the Anoka County attorney's office for possible charges.
But as authorities piece together the events of Wednesday, they are certain that Narjes was not properly buckled into her restraining seat.
When we go to crashes, "it's pretty easy to identify preventable causes," Roeske said. "This is one of them."
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.