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Girl, 2, left in car which rolled into river after handbrake was off

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A two-year-old girl left alone in a car died when it rolled into a freezing river after its handbrake was disengaged, an inquest has heard.

Kiara Moore died after being recovered from her parents’ silver Mini in the River Teifi in Cardigan, Wales on 19 March – a week before her third birthday.

An inquest heard the toddler was left alone in the car for two minutes and one second while it was parked outside her parents’ outdoor pursuits business, before the vehicle rolled down a slipway.

Her mother, Kim Rowlands, 29, said she got in her car at around 3.30pm and accidentally sat on and snapped her credit card, and needed to go back inside her office to retrieve £10 from a safe to buy food.

In a statement read out in court, Miss Rowlands said Kiara had not been strapped in to the front passenger seat and had been in a “mischievous” mood.

She said: “The car keys were still in the driver’s side or in the ignition.

“As I went into the office I could hear Kiara in the car. When I left she was singing and shouting and laughing.”

Pic: Kim Rowlands/Facebook
Image:
Parents Kim Rowlands and Jet Moore with Kiara. Pic: Kim Rowlands/Facebook

CCTV showed the car began to roll down the slipway it was parked on, and ended up in the freezing river 10 seconds later.

Miss Rowlands appeared outside around a minute later and called the police after initially fearing the car had been stolen with her toddler inside.

But the strong current had swept the Mini further down the river and out of sight of the slipway, meaning it was two hours later before police found the car almost completely submerged in water.

PCSO Caryl Griffiths broke down in tears in court while describing diving into the river and helping smash open the car’s window to try and rescue Kiara.

She said: “I then felt Kiara’s body. She floated out of the vehicle into my arms.

“She was wearing a pink jacket which matched the clothing described by her mother.

Flowers were left near the scene of the tragedy
Image:
Flowers were left near the scene of the tragedy

“As we reached the river bank I took hold over her and lowered her onto the floor, putting her gently on the ground.

“Officers began CPR on her.

“All I remember is standing there looking at her body on the ground.

“Her head was rolling all around the place and her face was purple.”

Kiara was taken to University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, where she was pronounced dead later that evening.

Aled Thomas, a forensic vehicle examiner, said the car’s handbrake was not engaged when it was found, and said CCTV footage was consistent with it not being engaged at the time it began to roll down the slipway.

Kiara Moore. Pic: Jet Moore/Facebook
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Kiara Moore was singing and laughing when she was left in the car, her mother said. Pic: Jet Moore/Facebook

He said the vehicle had no defects and was found in third gear, which could have been the result of water gushing into the Mini.

Sergeant Shane Davies, a forensic investigator for Dyfed-Powys Police, said he was unable to say whether the car had been left without its handbrake on or whether Kiara had accidentally lowered it herself while playing.

Kiara’s father, Jet Moore, 41, who runs the outdoor adventure business, said he did not believe Kiara had any interest in playing with controls in the car.

Coroner Peter Brunton recorded a verdict of misadventure, saying the toddler died from immersion as opposed to drowning as “Kiara had no control over what happened”.

Mr Brunton said: “The question is how these events were able to occur with the gear and the handbrake in the positions described.

“On the balance of probabilities, for that car to roll down the slope into the river, even in third gear, without its handbrake applied, the only inference I can say is that the handbrake was not set for whatever reason.

“It seems quite clear to me that drowning would have occurred within 30 seconds of the car going into the river.

“Her body was not recovered for some two hours later.

“These were a perfectly lawful set of circumstances that have taken an unexpected turn.”

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