Girl (2) died when car with hand brake off rolled into river
A two-year-old girl died after the car she had been left in by her mother rolled into a fast flowing river, as the hand brake had not been applied, an inquest heard.
Kiara Moore was left in the front seat of a silver Mini for just two minutes by her mother Kim Rowlands, as she went into her family’s riverside business in Cardigan, West Wales.
It was suggested that Kiara moved into the back seat and that could have triggered the car to travel backwards down the slipway on which it was parked, and into the freezing cold river Teifi last March.
Ceredigion coroner Peter Brunton said that on the "balance of probabilities" the handbrake had not been set before the car rolled into the river.
The 29-year-old mother rang police to report that the car had been stolen with her young daughter inside, but after a two hour search, it was found submerged in the river just yards from where it had been parked.
"I went down to the river and couldn't see anything,” said Ms Rowlands.
“My next thought was that the car had been taken. I asked people if they'd seen anything.
"I rang 999 and told them my car had been taken with my daughter inside. Then I was running about everywhere and asking drivers if anyone had seen my car.
"I looked everywhere.”
PCSO Caryl Griffiths told the inquest how she dived into the freezing river and smashed her way into the car with a baton.
"I immediately felt Kiara's body. She floated out of the car into my arms,” she said.
"All I remember was looking at her body and her face was purple.
"I knew it was here because the coat she was wearing matched the description."
Detective Constable Hannah Gardener said the Mini could be seen in CCTV footage at the back of the building.
"At 4.28pm bright-coloured trainers come into view from the vehicle and go out of view at 4.29pm,” she said.
"At 4.32pm the car started to roll backwards towards the slip. At 4.32pm the vehicle is out of view.
"A woman comes of of the building carrying items. She can be seen then talking on the phone."
The hearing was told the woman was Kiara's mother. DC Gardener said that from video, the car was left unattended for just two minutes and two seconds.
After Kiara was recovered from the river, a defibrillator was brought to her before she was flown to the University Hospital Wales in Cardiff.
Professor Stephen Leadbeatter carried out a post mortem and gave a cause of death as immersion.
Forensic investigator Aled Thomas told the hearing that the handbrake would have needed to be set to just two clicks to stop it from rolling down the hill.
He said: "The handbrake was found in the unset position and not applied."
Investigating officer Sergeant Shane Davies suggested that Kiara moved into the back seat and that could have triggered the car rolling back.
"Kiara made here way into the back of the vehicle," he said.
"It could well be that the movement has been enough to overcome the gravity tipping point and the vehicle has moved away.
"CCTV has shown that the car rolled off slowly so that may be one reasonable explanation. "That movement has been enough to start that movement and gravity has done its thing."
Coroner Peter Brunton said: "As the car was recovered I find that the handbrake was down in third gear.
"Miss Rowlands said she left it in reverse. When the car was recovered that was not the case.
"The vehicle has been tested and was in good condition with no handbrake defects.
"There is going to be no satisfactory outcome."
He said that on the "balance of probabilities" the hand brake had not been set before it rolled into the river.
"A perfectly lawful set of circumstances has taken place which has led to death. Kiara's family have my deepest sympathies," he added.
In an emotional Facebook post after her daughter’s death, Ms Rowlands wrote: “Due to my own stupidity, I will have to live with the guilt of this for the rest of my life. Mummy loves you baby girl and I'm so sorry.”
The verdict was recorded as misadventure