A coroner has sent a stark warning to parents on the proper use of child car seats following the tragic death of two Creswell sisters.
Chantelle Grace Keywood, five and her sister Yleina Skye Keywood, aged 21 months, died from injuries sustained in a crash on 24th September 2012 on the B6042 Crags Road.
An inquest at Chesterfield Coroner’s Court on Wednesday heard how the girls had been back seat passengers in a blue Peugeot 106 driven by their mother, Amy Keywood, who survived along with her older daughter.
Mrs Keywood told the court how the road was ‘wet and greasy’ at the time of the crash.
She lost control of the car going round a bend near Creswell Crags.
She tried to correct her steering but the car veered across the carriageway, hitting another before spinning off into a hedge.
Both girls in the back seat sustained fatal injuries.
Police crash scene investigators said reconstructions suggested Mrs Keywood was driving too fast for the wet conditions, although not necessarily over the 60mph speed limit.
They also said the children were not strapped in properly.
PC Bernie Glynn said: “Chantelle’s strap was resting on her neck. It should have rested across her shoulder.”
“There was no presence of restraint.”
“She was sat on a booster seat and had no method of moving the strap away from her neck.”
“Yleina was sat on a child seat which had a harness. She was sat on the harness and the three-point adult seatbelt was being used to restrain her.”
“Due to her age and weight she should have been restrained by the harness.”
Mrs Keywood admitted not knowing Chantelle was too young to be on a booster cushion. The court heard she should have had a car seat.
She said: “I thought from the age of four you could carry a child in a car with a booster seat. I didn’t know it needed a back.”
“I didn’t just put them in incorrect car seats willy nilly.”
“Yleina had a five point car seat harness but no matter how tight I fastened it she would strain and wriggle her arms out of it so that only her waist was strapped in.”
She said she was worried it would hurt Yleina’s stomach if she braked sharply, and thought a three point steatbelt would protect her better than just a strap.
Paul McCandless, Assistant Coroner for Derby and Derbyshire area told the court his role was ‘not about blaming people’.
“I speak as a father myself when I say I have never found car seats an easy thing to handle,” he said.
“At the very least, potentially fatal injuries have happened here - based on the sort of restraint being used.”
“Anyone who might be minded not to use a particular restraint properly, or meet a child’s wishes not to wear one, really should think hard about this case.”
“You need to familiarise yourself with the proper instructions.”
“It was reported in the press that Prince William practiced and practiced before he went to collect baby George from the hospital to ensure he was properly secured.”
PC Bernie Glynn added: “When she restrained Yleina that day Mrs Keywood probably thought she was doing the right thing by her daughter.”
“Inexperience and a lack of understanding appear to be a factor in the tragic sequence of events that led to these children’s deaths. They were not afforded a chance.”
“The severe injuries sustained demonstrate the ineffectiveness of the seat restraints when used incorrectly.”
“Children should be properly restrained irrespective of the child’s wishes.”
“It is when things like this happen that you realise how tragic the consequences can be.”
“Think about the incomprehensible loss Mrs Keywood and her family have suffered.”
• A dedicated website http://www.childcarseats.org.uk is available to help parents choose the safest way for children to travel in cars.
It is run by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).
The website is visited by around 4,500 people every day and is a trusted source of safety information for anyone needing advice about child car restraints in the UK.
An RoSPA spokesman said: “Properly fitted child car seats are very effective in protecting children if there is a car crash, but it is essential that the child car seat is suitable for the child’s weight and size.”
“Child car seats are designed and tested for children in different weight ranges and that’s what parents should be checking when they are selecting an ‘appropriate’ seat.”
“However, the seats need to be fitted properly, and research shows that many parents are still struggling to use the right car seat for their child and fit it correctly.”
“Common mistakes include moving the child into a larger car seat too soon, and not securely fitting the car seat in the vehicle.”
“Poor fitting can mean that the seat will not protect a child in a crash.”