Parents Lose 'Miracle' Twin to Napping in His Car Seat for 2 Hours at Day Care

Rachel Jungling

Rachel Jungling and Anders
Rachel Jungling

Rachel Jungling and her husband, Ryne, waited a long time to become parents. After seven years of infertility, the couple was ecstatic to learn they were finally pregnant in 2017 -- and with twins! But just 11 months after welcoming their miracle babies, the Junglings' world would come crashing down when their son Anders passed away suddenly while napping in his car seat. Now, the Mandan, North Dakota, parents have made it their mission to warn other parents of the dangers of letting babies sleep in their car seats, in hopes of saving more innocent lives.

  • The tragic accident happened earlier this year -- an otherwise ordinary Thursday for the Junglings.

    Rachel had dropped Anders and his sister, Linnea, off at their day care center, shortly before heading into work on January 10. Both children were fastened into their car seats at the time -- Linnea was awake, but Anders was getting sleepy, likely lulled into a nap by the soothing car ride.

    "With two, Rachel didn't feel comfort leaving one in the car, so she would grab them both in the carriers and bring them in," Ryne recently told ABC 7. "It was common practice. Every day, we'd give the day care provider the update -- how they slept the night before, what they ate. [The kids] were usually out of the car seat."

    But today was different.

    "Anders looked over at Rachel and Rachel said, 'Bye buddy,'" Ryne recalled. "He kind of smiled, and she left -- with the assumption that he was going to be taken out of his car seat, and he wasn't."

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  • Shortly after 10 a.m., Rachel received a call from police that changed her world forever.

    Anders and Linnea Jungling
    Rachel Jungling

    "They asked her twice, 'Are you sitting down?'" Ryne said. "And they said they were coming to pick her up and that Anders was being rushed to the hospital."

    Speaking to ABC, Ryne recalled the moment his wife had to relay the difficult news to him:

    "She said, something happened to Anders and you need to get to the hospital and I think it's really bad.' I remember her voice. I never heard it like that. She was really worried. It was tough. She thought it was kind of weird, but she knew it was pretty serious, if something like that was happening."

  • Unbeknownst to the Junglings, Anders hadn't been removed from his car seat after all. In fact, he'd been allowed to keep sleeping there for two hours.

    Ryne Jungling with Anders
    Rachel Jungling

    At first read, that may not sound so alarming. After all, kids fall asleep in their car seats all the time, right? True -- but letting them remain there, especially once the car seat is removed from the base and no longer tipped at a safe angle, poses serious risks. 

    Those were risks that Rachel says she and her husband were well aware of -- but sadly, her day care provider was not.

    "We heard about this in parenting classes we took before the twins were born," Rachel tells CafeMom. "The nurses in the NICU also explained the risks to us. We made sure our parents knew not to let them sleep in their car seats. We thought our day care provider knew this."

    It's something car seat safety experts have been warning about for a while now, but the American Academy of Pediatrics only added the warning to its safe sleep guidelines in October 2016.

  • According to experts, the safest sleep space for a baby is on their back, on a firm surface such as a crib or bassinet, with a tight-fitting sheet.

    Anders and Linnea
    Rachel Jungling

    “When your baby is seated, her heavy head can fall forward causing difficulty breathing … and even suffocation,” Dr. Harvey Karp explained on his Happiest Baby blog. “That’s why car seats -- outside of moving cars -- are not safe for naps or overnight sleep for the first 6 months of life."

    As the Junglings sadly learned, it was also not a safe sleep space for little Anders.

  • Once the day care providers found Anders unresponsive, they immediately called 911 and administered CPR.

    Paramedics worked on him for 40 minutes, ABC reported. Then came another 30 minutes in the emergency room of a hospital in Bismarck. Finally, Anders was airlifted to Fargo, North Dakota, where he remained on life support until January 12, when he died.

    An official investigation into the baby's death found that he died from positional asphyxia. In Anders' case, the little boy's head slumped over as he slept, causing his chin fell to his chest and his airway to be cut off.

  • The Junglings were thrown into unimaginable grief, but quickly realized they couldn't stay silent if it meant they could save even one life.

    "When we talked to others after Anders died, people kept saying that they had no idea that it was unsafe to let a baby sleep in a car seat outside of a base," Rachel tells CafeMom. 

    She realized just how misinformed a lot of people are when it comes to sleep safety -- through no fault of their own.

    "We hear a lot about safe sleep practices and the ABCs of safe sleep (Alone Back Crib)," she says, "but for some reason we maybe don't think of that as much when a baby is in something that saves so many lives."

    It's true. We're constantly talking about how safe car seats are (one mom even recently went viral for crediting her booster seat with saving her 9-year-old's life). But there's one key piece of that message that can easily get missed.

    "Car seats are lifesavers in the car, but that's what they're made for," Rachel says. "They're not sleeping devices for the home."

    "We know it's not the car seat's fault -- it's an education issue," Ryne added to ABC. "The old adage of 'Don't wake a sleeping baby' is so wrong when it's not safe sleep."

  • A lot of this has to do with the fact that babies don't yet have the neck muscles or strength to hold up their heads, Consumer Reports notes.

    Infant car seats have been designed and tested not only to protect your baby in a collision but also to ensure that if your baby does fall asleep in the seat, the risks of slumping down, chin to chest and blocking airflow, are low,” Emily A. Thomas, an automotive safety engineer at Consumer Report’s Auto Test Center, told the publication. "Still, car seats aren’t appropriate for extended, unobserved sleep."

    In the same report, Dr. Ben Hoffman, chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention Executive Committee, echoed these sentiments. 

    “All the data that we have on car seats indicate that there aren’t risks associated with babies sleeping in the car for short periods of time when they’re properly restrained in a car seat that’s been installed with appropriate positioning," he said.

  • Although it hasn't been easy, Rachel says that their faith has kept the couple "moving forward" as they cope with the loss of their little boy.

    Rachel Jungling and family
    Rachel Jungling

    "It helps to know that God still loves us, we have been forgiven much, and should extend that forgiveness to others," she tells CafeMom. 

    And remarkably, she holds no bitterness in her heart about what happened.

    "We aren't angry," she shares. "Losing Anders has made us want to live life loving others well. It's been easier to not sweat the small stuff and be grateful for the everyday struggles."

    To that end, the Junglings recently helped launch a class for grandparents at Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health on safe sleep. It also includes vital safety information on furniture tip-over prevention, nutrition, breastfeeding support, and more, ABC reported.

    As they continue to share their story in hopes of helping others, Rachel says she has come to terms with the fact that this means rehashing the details of that tragic day over and over again.

    "Talking about the facts of what happened is all right," she shares. "I want people to understand the details. It gets hard when I look at pictures of how happy the twins were together and how happy we all were. We are still finding joy in each day while knowing that Anders is experiencing total joy and peace now."

  • Part of finding that daily joy now includes one more addition to the Jungling clan -- the couple welcomed another son, Elias, on October 2.

    They have also set up a scholarship for first responders in Anders' memory, Rachel says. 

    "We are so grateful to the first responders who helped us that day, especially the EMTs who provided CPR for 40 minutes to help get Anders's heart started again," she says. "This gave us a chance to say goodbye to our son, and we cannot thank them enough for that."

    Speaking with ABC earlier this month, Ryne reflected on how they're choosing to reframe how they look at Anders' life and death.

    "We prayed a lot that he would get better, that this would all go away," he explained of the days immediately following the accident. "We were praying for a miracle to happen. At the same time, we started to pray that this story would lead to a miracle. Maybe Anders surviving, maybe that wasn't the miracle. Maybe it was preventing this [from happening] to someone else."