4-month-old baby smothered to death by family dog - Coroner

Source: 1News

A four-month-old baby died from suffocation after the family dog fell asleep on top of her, a coroner has ruled.

Generic photo of a baby

On March 20, 2020, Korowai-Aroha Maru-Walker, aged four months, had been staying at her grandparents' home in Hamilton for the night. Along with her grandparents was her aunt and the family dog, a bulldog named Wairua.

She was put down to sleep on a Lazy Boy chair in the lounge at 9pm because she had outgrown her pod, and was bottle-fed again at 2am before falling back to sleep on the chair.

Her kaumātua slept on an air bed nearby.

However, when Korowai-Aroha’s aunt entered the lounge the following morning, she found the dog asleep on top of the baby. Wairua was pulled off, but Korowai-Aroha was unresponsive and could not be revived.

In his report, Coroner Matthew Bates described her death as "tragic" and served as a reminder that every sleep should be a safe sleep.

In 2017, the Ministry of Health launched a prevention programme to reduce the number of deaths of infants.

One of the two focuses of the programme was unsafe bed sharing.

"In the present case, there was no bed sharing with whānau, but the chair Korowai-Aroha was sleeping on was known to be used on occasion by the dogs of the kaumātua," Bates said.

"This presented a risk of smothering akin to risk associated with co-sleeping, as tragically realised in Korowai-Aroha’s case."

Bates emphasised that Korowai-Aroha was "clearly loved and well cared for by her whānau".

For that reason, he did not consider formal recommendations were necessary.