Sadie Myers' 4-year-old twins, Aurora and Kellan, were found unresponsive inside a toy chest, which shut on them while they were sleeping
A Florida mother who lost her 4-year-old twin children last month when they fell asleep inside an antique toy chest and the lid closed them in, is speaking out about what happened so other parents won’t experience a similar tragedy.
“I lost half of my heart,” Sadie Myers, 36, tells PEOPLE in a statement “Two of my four children died. I lost both of my beautiful twins, Aurora, my gorgeous baby girl and Kellan, my handsome little boy.”
Kellan and Aurora were found unresponsive on Aug. 25 by authorities inside a closed toy chest at the family's Jacksonville, Florida, home. Despite "attempts to revive them, they were pronounced deceased," according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. Authorities said at the time they were working with the Medical Examiner’s Office to determine the cause of death and that no charges had been filed.
As she earlier wrote in a Facebook post, Myers said that the twins were put to bed by their father, Don Starr, 45, who then went to sleep himself. Myers later arrived home from work, checked to make sure her kids were in bed, and then proceeded to go to bed, too.
At some point, according to Myers, the twins woke up and decided to play in their room rather than go to bed — something that they had previously done. During that night, Aurora and Kellan opted to snuggle together inside a toy chest that contained their stuffed animals.
The next morning, Myers got up to go to work and her two older boys, Axton, 10, and Caelum, 8, were playing outside in the yard; she assumed that Aurora and Kellan were still sleeping. But her husband noticed that the twins were not in bed when he checked on them. As the family searched throughout the house, one of the older boys found the twins in the toy chest.
“I’ll never stop asking myself how I overlooked something this dangerous sitting in their bedroom, filled with stuffed animals,” Myers tells PEOPLE. “How did I not know that a toy chest could be air tight and sound proof? It doesn’t make sense. How did I not notice it latched on its own every time the lid closed? Why didn’t anyone tell me? I didn’t know and no one told me because it was an ANTIQUE, an old cedar chest.”
Myers wants to turn what happened to Aurora and Kellan into a call for action on behalf of child safety. “I will honor my babies by telling my story,” she tells PEOPLE. “Telling whoever I can, wherever I can, every-time I can to check your house for these antique chests or anything that could potentially be dangerous to your children. Please get rid of these things. Don’t put them in the attic or store them somewhere else; destroy them.”
Myers also says she'll never forget the image of her twin children's faces smiling up at her. “They were so good and so innocent," she adds. "I want them back so bad but I know all I can do is make sure I never go a single minute without thinking about them and do whatever I can to keep this from happening to anyone else.”
In 2014, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission warned consumers about the potential dangers of storage and toy chests, saying that incidents involving them have occurred when children go inside them to hide or sleep. The agency said that there had been 34 reported fatalities of children under the age of 18 since 1996 due to these chests.
“The children could not get out and suffocated in the enclosed space because these spaces are airtight with no ventilation,” the agency said in a news release. “Other children were strangled while reaching for items in a chest and the lid fell onto them or because their necks became entrapped between the chest’s walls and its lid.”
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Myers acknowledges that she had been very proactive about her children's safety over the years, saying she covered every electrical outlet, duct-taped cords to the wall, kept locks on every drawer, installed baby cameras in the house, and placed utensils in the top cupboard of her kitchen.
“We rarely needed a sitter but when we did, it was only family: either my mother, my sister, or my now 18 year old nephew. I tried so hard to protect my angels, but I never imagined a piece of furniture would be the reason I would lose them," she says.
She also says: “My sister and I talked about how we’ve grown up and had our children in an era where toy manufacturers do a pretty good job of making things safe. There are warning labels on EVERYTHING. We’ve become dependent on other people to make things safe for our kids. We’ve become complacent.”
Myers remembers Aurora and Kellan as being mature for their young age. “I felt like I’d known them my entire life,” she says. “All of my children have always been my best friends but at four years old, the twins were always by my side. They didn’t want to play video games or watch YouTube. They wanted to hang out with mommy and daddy every second. They wanted to cuddle and give kisses and hugs and make everyone smile and they never asked for anything in return. They gave us unconditional love. Their one and only goal was to make mommy, daddy and everyone in their family happy.”
Myers' sister, Deanna, set up a GoFundMe for the family following the tragedy. As of Monday, the fundraiser has generated over $40,000.
“I want to thank EVERYONE for your kind words and for all the support and donations given,” Myers wrote in the GoFundMe update. “You all have no idea what it means to me and my family to know there are so many people out there that care so deeply, especially for people you don’t even know.. Reading all your kind messages definitely helps dull the pain, if even for just a moment, I greatly appreciate the help. Thank you all so very much.”
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