KA'U, Big Island (HawaiiNewsNow) - A family is grieving the loss of their infant son after a fatal accident near Ka'u on the Big Island.
The family is visiting from Japan. They spent the day driving around the island and had left the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and were driving back to Waikoloa when their lives were changed forever.
The accident was on Hawaii Belt Road near Ka'u just after 5:00 Thursday evening. There were six adults and an infant in the van. The baby's father was driving. Police say he may have fallen asleep and drifted off the road causing it to overturn. The father told police he was fatigued and trading off driving duties with another man in van.
The six month old baby boy had a car seat but he was taken out so the mother could breast feed. That is when the crash occurred. He died less than three hours later at Hilo Medical Center.
"From this tragic incident as you can see what happens when you take the child out of the car seat. The child probably would have survived if he was in the car seat but apparently the mother was breast feeding at the time," said Sgt. Christopher Gali, Hawaii Police Department.
Police are investigating the crash as a negligent homicide case however it's unlikely charges will be filed especially since drugs or alcohol are not believed to have been involved.
It is Hawaii state law that newborns to children three years old must be in a car seat. And kids 4 to 7 years old have to be in a booster seat. The state says usage of safety seats has gone up significantly over the years.
"Use of them is at a pretty high level not every child is in a car seat but more than 90 percent are," said Dan Galanis, Ph.D., State Epidemiologist and Injury Prevention Program.
He says it's proven that those properly restrained in car seats are far safer than those not in an age appropriate seat.
"Children restrained properly in a car seat have lower chance of needing to be transferred to a hospital, lower chance of requiring hospitalization or being admitted to a hospital," said Galanis.
One year ago a 14 month old girl was killed on Kauai. She was sitting on her father's lap when he rear-ended a car in front of him deploying the airbag. It's a mistake the father says he'll live with the rest of his life.
Sadly the parents involved in the Big Island crash will undoubtedly have the same regrets.
For details on Hawaii's child safety seat law click here.
For more information and how you can get a tax credit on booster seats click here.