A 5-month-old Post Falls girl drowned in a bathtub Thursday morning as her mother recovered from a night of drinking, according to the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department.
Kelli R. O’Neill, 31, had taken her daughter Morgan into the bathtub with her around 9 a.m. and fell asleep with the infant propped up between her legs, said Capt. Ben Wolfinger of the Sheriff’s Department.
While O’Neill was asleep, the child slid into the water for an unknown length of time, he said.
“She doesn’t know if it was five seconds or five minutes,” he said.
Upon waking, O’Neill discovered her unconscious baby and called 911, but was so hysterical that the dispatchers could not get her address, Wolfinger said.
O’Neill’s 4-year-old picked up the phone and said, “Morgan’s blue,” Wolfinger said.
Post Falls dispatchers put a trace on the call to find the Royal Highlands address. Wolfinger said it was 9:15 a.m., nine minutes after the 911 call came in, when paramedics arrived at the scene.
Neighbor Lisa Seher said it appeared that police and paramedics were confused as she watched from her house on Highland Drive. The emergency vehicles drove down her street, then turned around and rushed the opposite way.
Seher said people often get confused by new streets that are not on city maps. Kelli and David O’Neill live on Classic Court, which is a new street near the Highland’s golf course.
The sheriff’s sergeant investigating the case said he did not know whether emergency workers were lost.
Wolfinger said a quicker response may not have made a difference, because it is unknown how long the baby was submerged.
The mother told authorities she tried administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The father was not home.
Paramedics also attempted CPR, and the infant was taken to Kootenai Medical Center where she was pronounced dead.
The Sheriff’s Department is investigating all aspects of the case, including whether alcohol was a factor in the accident. Kelli O’Neill had been up most of the night before drinking with a friend, Wolfinger said.
The autopsy showed no signs of abuse, only a bruise where paramedics inserted a breathing hose into the infant’s trachea.
Wolfinger called the death a tragic accident.
“Your heart goes out to the family,” he said.
Authorities have not decided whether to file criminal charges against O’Neill.