Update: Dad calls death of toddler found in parked vehicle "a tragic accident"
Bella Lindstrom (family photo)
UPDATE: FLINT (KYTX) – A Smith County father is grieving the death of his toddler, who he says crawled into his unlocked Nissan Frontier truck yesterday afternoon when he thought she was sleeping. Russel Lindstrom found 4-year-old Bella unresponsive and overheated in the back of the truck with her sister, Zoey.
Lindstrom says the day started out like any other with his kids at their home in the 18000 block of County Road 1100.
"I saw them both wrapped up in their blankets, going to sleep. So I was like ok, I can get some chores done I don't have to worry about my kids," Russel Lindstrom, the father of the two girls, said.
Lindstrom, who claims to be medically retired from the U.S. Army, says he did some laundry and played a video game when he got up to check on the girls with his fiancee's brother.
"They weren't in the room, we checked everywhere in the house couldn't find them so the first thought was they went out in the woods like they had been trying to do all day," Lindstrom said.
He says when he got back up to the front of the home and looked at his truck, he immediately thought the worst. He then discovered his girls, 3 and 4 years old, unresponsive.
"My youngest was laying on the floorboard in the backseat, my oldest laying in a puddle of vomit. The doors were locked so I had to run in the house and get the keys," Lindstrom said. Lindstrom tells CBS19 he immediately took the older daughter to the pool and tried to revive her by splashing water on her. He then brought Zoey underneath the porch and she started moving around and moaning. He went back over to Bella, to check for any signs of life.
"I couldn't save Bella. I couldn't save her at all," Lindstrom said.
He admits this isn't the first time this has happened.
"They've gotten into the vehicle and locked themselves in before. And ever since then we've tried to make sure the vehicles were locked so that they couldn't because we knew this could happen," Lindstrom said.
Yesterday the family had planned to go to the dealership to get a new truck. The grieving father says knowing that, he believes the girls just wanted a jumpstart on getting to take a trip. He says his Nissan pickup was parked in the direct sunlight all day and estimates the girls were in there about 20 minutes.
Bella was pronounced dead at the hospital. 3-year-old Zoey was released from the hospital and is doing fine at last report. Lindstrom says she is with her mother, his fiancée Michelle.
The sheriffs office is investigating this case and will release more information this afternoon. CPS is also joining the investigation.
Shari Pulliam, CPS spokeswoman for the eastern region of Texas, says the children's family has no previous history with her agency, and the incident might be a tragic accident.
"Small children, when not properly supervised can get into a lot of places and one of those places is in a vehicle. With the hot temperatures we have in Texas, that can be a potentially deadly place for them to be," she said.
Lindstrom has told CBS19 the Smith County sheriff's office confiscated all of his electronics and prescription medications. He says that's made it difficult to give word of what happened to family or friends.
He says the last 24 hours have been a nightmare. "You can't sleep when you see your child's dead face before your eyes," Lindstrom said. The Smith County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch received a 911 call from a person reporting two unresponsive toddlers inside a vehicle in the 18000 block of County Road 1100, near Flint Wednesday afternoon.
EMS arrived and found two girls, ages three and four. The four-year-old was transported to a local hospital, where she died. The three-year old was treated at the scene and released. The details of the case are still not clear, so there is no additional information available at this time.
The Smith County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division is investigating. Information will be released as the investigation progresses and details become available.