No Bruising From Car Seat Straps for Toddler Killed In Crash

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COLUMBIA COUNTY-- Briar Creek Township Police are still  investigating what caused the Tuesday morning crash, that killed little Emma Niznek  of Berwick.

Even after an autopsy, investigators are still not sure whether a 19-month-old girl, killed in a car crash, was properly strapped in a child safety seat

An autopsy, done by the Columbia County Coroner's office, showed no internal injuries or bruising that would be consistent with straps on a car seat.
Police say the 19 month old's grandmother, Janice Petroff was driving down Martzville Road near Berwick when her car hit a utility pole.
Emma  was thrown from the SUV onto the road and died on impact.

Experts say when a child, properly secured in a child safety seat is involved in a crash, there may be bruising near the seat straps.
The autopsy on 19-month-old Emma Niznek did not show those types of injuries.
Also police say the child was wearing a heavy winter coat, and experts say that can also be a problem.

"What happens is when children have bulky clothes on and they are in their car seat, with the harness system it actually creates space between them and the harness," said Sharron Yorke with Pennsylvania State Police.

Briar Creek Township Police are investigating whether the heavy coat was a factor in this crash but say it is far too early to come to any conclusions.
Next week, they will get a warrant to search the SUV that the grandmother was driving.

Geisinger Medical Center told Newswatch 16 the grandmother's condition went from stable to critical Thursday morning.
Emma Niznek's funeral is set for Saturday, and will be open to the public. It will start at 10 a.m. at St Mary's Church in Berwick.


  • Crystal Davis-Taylor

    It could also be that the child WAS buckled in, but was strapped in OVER that bulky winter coat. Upon impact, the poor little thing was not adequately secured due to the car seat straps being too loose. There would be NO bruising on autopsy if the car seat did not do its job. The force simply sent her flying right out of the seat. Definite possibility.

    Car seat experts recommend to NOT seat belt over bulky clothing for precisely this reason. Dress child in warm clothing, bring that warm jacket along in the car to wear when child is NOT in the car, buckle the seatbelt, then snuggle a warm blanket on TOP of the buckled in child to keep him/her warm for trip.

    My condolences to this family. I am sure Grandma is devastated.

  • Sandy Patton

    I am so sorry for this family for the loss of that little angel. My comment has nothing to do with what/how this happened, however, looking at the damage to both sides of the vehicle…how was she “thrown” from the vehicle? the passenger side has nothing showing damage from inside out…the driver’s side is where it hit the pole, therefore there was no area where this could have happened. Am I over looking something? or misunderstanding the story?? Again, I am very sorry for the entire family and God Bless the funeral home

    • CJ

      She was probably in the back seat, behind her grandmother, rather than on the passenger side. Kids are supposed to be in the back seat until they reach a size to be properly protected by the airbag in the front seat. Placing them directly behind the driver makes it easier for the adult to get them in and out of the vehicle. That’s where my grandson sits.

    • Sandy Patton

      first of all, I didn’t say anything about the child being in the front seat, or on the passenger side of the vehicle. I was simply stating that, going by the damage to the vehicle, that there was anywhere the car seat came out of the vehicle. If she was behind the grandmother, the only damage on the drivers side is only big enough to have the damage from the pole. Also, I am quite aware of the “rear facing” car seat laws, as I have had children and have grandchildren myself.

  • Cherie921

    Oh my gosh! This is so sad. It may have been possible that she thought the baby was secured properly and she wasn’t because of the bulkiness of the baby’s jacket. A lesson learned to always double or even triple check to make sure they are secured properly. My heart and prayers go out to their family. Very sad! :’-(

  • Jenny

    I hope this is a lesson for people who don’t think a child’s safety seat isn’t necessary. My thoughts and prayers go out to her family. I am a grandmother and I can’t imagine how much pain this is on her,even without her injuries. God be with them.

    • Lisa Yvonne Rhinebeck

      I’m a Mother of 4 a stepmom to many an currently have grandkids as well as children in carseats that come into my home. Raising children for 38 yrs an never knew about the coat thing. So it goes to show we all can learn something from this as well. And I myself have had a 18 yr old daughter die, because she thought it would be ok to drive just a few miles from home without her seatbelt. :(

      • cari

        The thing is that people try to tell others about things like the coat or about rear facing longer, keeping them harnessed longer, etc and others get all mad about “being told how to parent.” Seriously, those people need to read stories like this and realize they aren’t immune and we’re not trying to be mean. If you don’t know, how can you even make a different decision??? :(

      • jenniferdipietro

        So true Cari, I’ve known many people that don’t want to comment to other mom’s about improper car seat usage because they don’t want to come off as being judgmental. I’d rather say something and come off as judgmental with the chance of potentially saving a child’s life then not say anything and having something happen and have to live with the fact that I stood by idly.

  • Cansie

    Wow. Prayers going up for the family and friends… and especially Grandma, who is still struggling. Such a sad and terrible thing to happen to a family.

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