HOW DID MATAI DIE?
By JULIEN NEAVES Saturday, June 7 2014
WHILE in Brazil preparing for a match against Iran on Sunday national footballer Marvin Phillip received the tragic news that his 10-month-old son, Matai Joshua Cameron Phillip, had died after being taken to a daycare in Chaguanas.
The baby’s grandparents, Lincoln Halls and Gemma Ottley from Springlands, Gasparillo, and godmother Sharon Santana, were at the Forensic Science Centre in St James yesterday awaiting an autopsy. Halls reported that the autopsy had been postponed to Monday due to additional tests.
Halls told the media he and his wife dropped off Matai at 6.15 am at the Anointed Angels Daycare at Cicada Street, Edinburgh 500, Chaguanas. He said the baby, who was sitting with his grandmother in the backseat, was “jolly” and playful and did not appear ill. He reported that he handed Matai to the daycare attendant and also gave them the baby’s car seat.
He said the attendant was alone with Matai and about five other babies, and she had told him the other attendants would be arriving at 8 am.
About an hour later someone from the daycare telephoned Matai’s mother Lesley-Ann Halls, a police officer assigned to the Gasparillo Police Station, and told her the baby had been taken to the Chaguanas Health Facility.
“Come down to the health facility. Something is wrong with the baby,” Matai’s grandfather recalled.
When the relatives arrived the baby was already dead. Halls said when his daughter saw her dead son she “broke down”, was unable to stand and had to be cared for by health workers. He reported the daycare attendant, a woman who appeared to be in her fifties, told him Matai was crying in the crib and she had taken him out and placed him in the car seat. The woman told him she later observed him slumped over in the car seat and believes he choked on the strap. Halls noted Matai, however, was accustomed to being in the car seat.
“That is sounding so strange,” he commented.
The owner of the daycare, Pauline Maloney, spoke on the incident to TV6 News. She stated that at about 7 am the baby began crying and was placed in one of the nursery car seats.
“He fell asleep for a short while and then he got up. I just left him where he was in the car seat,” she said.
She also said a short while after she realised he was unconscious. She removed him from the seat and began CPR on him before calling emergency services. She noted that she continued CPR and kept in contact with the paramedics who were instructing her on what to do. Maloney reported the paramedics arrived about five to 10 minutes later and he was rushed to the health facility and they continued CPR but he died.
Maloney said the baby likely got tied up in the straps and suffocated. She asked the family for forgiveness.
“I really apologise to the parents, to everyone of the family members for what took place. If I could bring Matai back now I would bring Matai back now,” she said.
Halls said Matai had been at that daycare since he was five-months-old and they did not have any problems with them in the past. He also recalled he had seen him in the car seat previously when he came to pick him up from the daycare.
Santana, the child’s godmother, said his mother had always dreamed of having a baby and following his death she was “in a mess”.
“He was her joy, her life, her everything,” she added.
Santana said Matai, who turned ten months on Monday, was christened at a church in Gasparillo and “now we have to bury him right there”.
The relatives are calling for a full investigation into the case. Matai, also nicknamed “Tai”, is the first child for the mother and Phillip’s third; he has two elder sons.
In a statement yesterday from Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) Director of Communications Shaun Fuentes, it was reported that the “Trinidad and Tobago camp was thrown into mourning early on Friday after receiving the tragic news of the death of the ten-month-old son of goalkeeper Marvin Phillip.”
He reported the team arrived in Sao Paolo at 2 am yesterday for the friendly match against Iran.
Phillip, 30, received the news of his son’s death shortly after 10 am. Halls recalled when he told him the news Phillip immediately hung up the telephone.
According to the TTFA Phillip was scheduled to depart for home yesterday evening with assistant manager Peter Rampersad and is expected to arrive at Piarco at around midday today.
This is the second tragedy for him in as many months with Fuentes reporting that “Phillip is still coming to terms with the death of his first child’s mother Aldella Gill who passed away last month due to heart complication”.
Phillip, goalie for Point Fortin Civic Centre, was the reserve goalkeeper in the friendly international against Argentina on Wednesday. He has been a member of the under 17, under-20, under 23 and senior national teams.
National team head coach Stephen Hart in a brief statement expressed condolences to Phillip and his family on behalf of the team and the TTFA. He was speaking as members of the team gathered at Phillips’ room at the Bristol International Airport Hotel in Sao Paolo.
“This is a tragic moment in Marvin’s life. He has faced some traumatic moments in the last month. Our hearts go out to him and the family. This is such a sad moment, I cannot even begin to understand what he must be going through emotionally. All this really places life into perspective for myself personally and us as a team,” he said.
According to the police the staff at the daycare were interviewed and they are awaiting the post mortem on Monday. Chaguanas police are continuing investigations and Maloney is assisting them.
Phillip is the third tragic child death this week: 22-month-old Kriston Obadele Gonzales drowned in a manmade pool at his Mayaro home on Sunday, and one day later five-year-old Jeminah Agard drowned at the YMCA pool at Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, after she and her class attended swimming lessons.