A heartbroken mum and dad still don’t know how their baby girl became stuck between a footstool attached to a couch and wall in a tragic accident which claimed her life.
The ECHO previously reported how six-week old Cassidy Blossom Oakley was found unresponsive at around 11pm on September 5 last year when it appeared she had fallen from a footstool she was lying on. Dad Jacob said he felt he had been woken by a “higher force” after accidentally falling asleep, and then saw his daughter on the floor at their home address in Runcorn.
An inquest into the baby’s death was held in Warrington on Wednesday where her heartbroken parents paid tribute to their daughter. In a statement read out to the court, written by Jacob and Cassidy’s mum Megan, they said Cassidy was their “bright, blue eyed baby girl.”
The hearing was told Cassidy had been a twin, but sadly was the only survivor after an earlier miscarriage. Her parents wanted to give her “the best start” in life and said she was their very own Merida, the princess from Disney’s Brave.
The hearing heard how on the day in question Cassidy had fallen asleep at around 9.30pm and was being watched by her dad. Megan said: “I went up to bed shortly after. I said my usual ‘goodnight, I love you, sweet dreams princess’.
“I gave her extra hugs and kisses and was next awoken at 11pm with Jacob shouting my name begging me to help him.” Jumping out of bed “confused”, she “soon realised how serious the situation was” when she saw Cassidy, limp and not breathing, in her dad’s arms.
The hearing was told they attempted CPR until paramedics arrived and she was soon rushed to Warrington Hospital. Megan added: “Our baby girl could never have rolled over by herself, she was only six weeks old. We can imagine what is going through your minds when we say she was on a footstool.
“To elaborate, it was a footstool part of the couch and there was no way she could’ve rolled off. It was in the corner of the room and she was lay on a baby pillow, the intention was not to keep her on there. Sadly my partner shut his eyes and unintentionally fell asleep. If you all have children you know how exhausting it is.”
Despite best efforts from parents and paramedics, Cassidy regained a heartbeat but sadly was not “breathing responsively”. At hospital, her parents said they were told Cassidy’s heart “wasn’t coping well” and “doctors said it didn’t look too good.”
Concerns were raised that there was a failure in communication from the start as a “human error” from control meant CPR advice was given to her parents for a young child rather than a baby. Jacob said: “It’s awful that it’s been (seen as) a learning opportunity when my child had to die.”
However, Dr James Wallace of Warrington hospital said the CPR technique would likely have made no difference as the main thing was that it was “being done”. He added that on arrival to hospital, Cassidy had a pulse but was not responding and her pupils were fixed and dilated.
The hearing was told Cassidy had suffered a second cardiac arrest which was likely due to low oxygen levels. Eventually being stable enough to be transferred to Alder Hey, the inquest was told that Cassidy was taking “occasional raspy breaths” only and there were signs of “catastrophic damage to her brain”.
Arriving around 5am, her parents said they stayed by her side and other family members recorded messages to be played for her. But her devastated parents were the following day told their baby girl was “brain dead”.
After discussions, a difficult decision was made to turn off the six week old’s life support and she died peacefully with her parents by her side on September 9. Speaking to the ECHO previously, Jacob said he was upset to find out Cassidy had been given a potential cause of death as accidental overlaying, which “destroyed” his mental health.
At the hearing on Wednesday, pathologist Dr George Kokai said he was faced with a situation where “everything looked normal apart from minor changes” when carrying out a post-mortem examination. The position in which young Cassidy was found, and evidence of bleeding behind her eyes suggested a lack of oxygen that was caused “for whatever reason”.
He gave an initial cause of death as accidental asphyxia due to Cassidy being found wedged between a sofa and a wall, adding there was “no pathological explanation for her passing.” However, concerns were raised over what they said was a missed hereditary heart condition which the family say may have contributed to her death in some way.
Dr Kokai said this was the first he had heard of a heart condition and his job was not to “check validity of data”, rather to carry out a post-mortem. He added there was evidence however of “prolonged hypoxia” – meaning a lack of oxygen. The hearing also heard there was no explanation for how Cassidy had been found in that position.
The inquest was told of a suggestion Cassidy could have “jolted” off the seat following a potential heart attack as mum Megan said she could not have “rolled over three times” alone.
Assistant coroner Heath Westerman concluded that the techniques advised by the ambulance service to commence CPR for a one- to seven-year-old rather than a one- to seven-week-old “made no difference”, and everyone else thereafter did their best for an outcome that “sadly didn’t materialise”.
He went on to say there were “no pathological findings to explain Cassidy’s passing” and there was no evidence of heart defects or seizures causing her to die. On Cassidy’s positioning, he added: “I can’t speculate as to whether she ended up there by her own movements or those by her father who was asleep next to her.”
Giving a cause of death as asphyxia due to being found wedged between a sofa and side wall, Cassidy’s death on September 9, 2021 was recorded as an accident. The coroner said: “I’m so deeply sorry for your loss as a family, but in particular Mr and Mrs Oakley and the suffering you’ve all been through, I can’t begin to imagine what that must’ve been like.
“I only hope you eventually come out of that process able to remember Cassidy with fondness rather than the manner in which she sadly passed away. My heart goes out to all of you.”
The inquest was told how there was “no requirement for further safeguarding”, and a police investigation found no evidence of criminality.