Region 8 family uses real-life experience to educate others

Easton survived this wreck thanks to a car seat (Source: Osceola Police Department)
Easton survived this wreck thanks to a car seat (Source: Osceola Police Department)

OSCEOLA, AR (KAIT) - Following the death of her cousins, Michelle Stilwell is working to educate others about the importance of car seat safety.

Five years ago, Stilwell's cousins were in a car accident. Of the three involved in the wreck, only one survived.

"To have him in our life today is a huge, huge blessing," Stilwell said.

Stilwell is referring to her cousin, Easton, who was just a baby at the time of the wreck. Though Easton's grandparents died in the wreck, he came out relatively unharmed.

"He was 11 months old and he's now five," Stilwell said. "Came out of the crash with only bruises."

Michelle described the wreck that affected her family five years ago as tragic.

"Killed everyone in that crash but the baby who was in that properly installed car seat."

The car seat was given to the family, free of charge, by the Osceola Police Department. They received the car seat just a month before the wreck. Michelle said if it hadn't been for the car seat, Easton probably wouldn't be here today.

Lieutenant Jennifer Ephlin with the Osceola Police Department installed that car seat. Ephlin said making sure a child is properly secured in a vehicle can be a life-saver.

"Some parents just throw the car seat in there and strap the seat belt on there and they think it's secure and it's not," Ephlin said. "You don't want that car seat to move any way."

Since Ephlin said so many people are unaware of how to properly install a car seat, the police department is hosting a car seat clinic on Saturday. They'll be giving away free car seats, installing them and answering questions.

"So if you're not sure if your child is in the proper car seat, you know, does he need to be in a bigger one or a smaller one?" Ephlin explained.

The car seats are given to police departments all across the country through a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Ephlin said if you don't have a car seat for your child, don't let that deter you from taking advantage of the program.

"A lot of people are afraid because sometimes they don't have a car seat and they're afraid they're gonna get ticketed," she said.

Ephlin said, that's not the case. They're simply trying to inform the public of car seat safety and keep children safe.

And as a mother herself, Stilwell said taking advantage of a program like this brings peace of mind because without it, she wouldn't have Easton in her life today.

"We're thankful for him every day, and get to see him grow up and get to experience all the things little kids are supposed to experience."

The clinic will take place Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon at the Osceola Police Department. Lieutenant Ephlin said they will have about 150-200 car seats to give away. If you're interested in receiving a free car seat but do not live in Osceola, just contact your local police department.

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