Baby’s Death Linked to Bag Found in Crib

Times Staff Writer

An 8-month-old Costa Mesa girl died Sunday evening after she was found unconscious with a plastic dry cleaning bag in her crib.

An autopsy was being conducted to see if the baby, Erica Isabel Cabrera, died of asphyxiation after grabbing the bag from a nearby shelf, police said.

“She possibly choked on a plastic bag she got hold of outside of the crib,” said Costa Mesa Police Sgt. Matt Collett.


County health officials said Monday that if the baby did die of asphyxiation it is a tragic reminder to parents to be careful about potentially dangerous objects that are within the reach of small children.

The baby’s father, 21-year-old Crescencio Cabrera, had placed Erica in her crib for a nap early in the evening. When he checked on her at 7:30 p.m., she was unconscious and was not breathing, Collett said.

A neighbor and police tried to revive the infant, but she was later pronounced dead at Coastal Communities Hospital in Santa Ana.

She was the only child of Cabrera and his 18-year-old wife, Laticia.

The laboratory results from the infant’s autopsy will not be completed for another four or six weeks, said Barbara Mitchell, manager of forensic investigations for the Orange County coroner’s office.

However, Mitchell did say that all parents need to be aware of the things that can cause children to choke and suffocate.

Mitchell said there were four deaths from asphyxiation and suffocation among children in the county last year

A 7-month-old child choked on a balloon, two 1-year-olds choked on food and one 5-month-old suffocated under a pile of laundry.

Also, a 7-year-old child died last year from complications related to a 1980 accident involving a plastic dry cleaning bag that cut off oxygen to the brain and caused mental retardation.

“People don’t always realize that plastic bags not only cause death but can cause brain damage and mental retardation,” Mitchell said.

The danger is not limited to children placing the plastic bags over their heads, health officials said. Children can chew off parts of a plastic bag that then become lodged in the air passages, according to Dr. Gerald Wagner, medical director for the county’s child health program.

“All you need to do is turn away for a moment and a youngster will do something,” Wagner said. “You should assume that everything around the child is a potential danger.”