Ellie’s Story


Ellie died when the changing table attachment on a play yard came down on the back of her neck as she stood up. She was thirteen months old.

Submitted by her mother, Lisa


We were blessed that my mother was able to watch Ellie while Tom and I worked. Often, when we’d arrive at the close of the day to pick her up, my mom and Ellie would have some new talent to share with us, like dancing the Elmo dance or showing off that she could laugh like Santa, “Bo-bo-bo!” Or the latest little delight Nana had to show us. When Ellie would wake from her nap, Nana could hear her pressing the musical Big Bird or having a babbling conversation with her little stuffed mouse, Angelina. Nana lightly tapped on the door with a knuckle and Ellie answered back, “…’MIN” – Ellie speak for, “come in!” Nana slowly opened the door and there was Ellie standing at the edge of her play yard, all smiles, having abandoned her toys for the welcoming arms of her Nana. From there, it then became a sort of tradition. Before disrupting one of Ellie’s post nap tea parties, mommy, daddy, or big sister, Kelsi, would rap lightly on the door waiting for her little voice to give us permission to “ ’MIN!”

We drove to Tom’s parents’ house in Idaho for the holidays. When we finally arrived in Idaho, it was mid-morning. After lunch, I brought Ellie into the guest bedroom for a nap. Daddy came in and whisked “Ellie-Belly” up in his arms, leaned her over to mommy’s cheek for kisses and swooped her through the air, landing her in the travel crib Grandma and Grandpa Davis bought for grandchildren visits. “Night night,” I whispered as I blew her kisses and walked out the door. Daddy finished tucking her in and followed shortly behind me. It was the last time we would see her alive.

Later, Tom took his dad over to the door to show him Ellie’s new signature naptime routine. “Watch this…,” Tom whispered as he began to lightly tap on the door. No response. Tap tap…”Ell-llie”…tap…tap…tap. No sound. After about the third attempt, Tom slowly crept open the door to his childhood room to a horrific sight—Ellie’s head was caught in between the bottom side of the play yard’s changing table attachment and the side rail of the play yard. He rushed to her, flung the attachment to the floor, and tried to get Ellie to respond. But there was nothing. She was gone.

In addition to having no locking mechanism, the design of the Graco play yard and changing table had a deadly flaw that resulted in Ellie’s death. On the underside of the changing table attachment, there were two semi-circle indents. These semi-circle portions locked Ellie’s neck like a lunette on a guillotine. It took just minutes for Ellie to suffocate in this entrapment.

As parents, Tom and I thought that the products we purchased Ellie were safe. As I am sure so many other expectant parents do, they browse the aisles of children’s stores and baby sections, with a deadly assumption: that these products can’t possibly be sold if they aren’t safe. Aren’t they meant to be set up the way they look on display—so perfectly convenient and cozy? Surely these products have been tested and are being presented to us in their safe forms, right? We were in for a horrible surprise.

The death trap set-up that killed our daughter could have been avoided had Graco tested the product for ALL POSSIBLE DANGERS, including ones that unknowing infants, curious toddlers, and busy preschoolers can get themselves into. I am immensely grateful for the work Kids in Danger has done to protect our children, and continue to be an incredible source of support for me. Without Kids in Danger, nobody would know about Ellie’s story, and those children and families who have been victims of inadequate safety testing.

For more information, check out: Product Hazards/Portable Cribs

The CPSC has passed new play yard standards that address the deadly design flaw that took Ellie too soon.