Baby Gabriella Gi-Ny Luong, lovingly known by her family as "Ella," was rushed to Children's of Alabama hospital yesterday after her mother accidentally left her in a roasting SUV, the temperatures inside the vehicle soaring to 127 degrees. Paramedics were unable to revive her, and mother Katie Luong is inconsolable, wishing she could trade her life for her daughter's, AL.com reports.
"I want to tell everybody that I wish I was in that car seat, not her," the grief-stricken 31-year-old mother told AL.com/The Birmingham News. "If I had to die for her to live, I would have done that."
The little girl was discovered at around 1:20 p.m. yesterday outside of her family's nail salon, Genesis Nail Spa, where Katie Luong works. She was found still strapped in her car seat after a busy morning, Katie Luong preoccupied with troubling thoughts of an employee who had recently committed suicide, and a hospitalized family friend who had recently suffered from a stroke, according to the Daily Mail. Lost in her own mind, she forgot to drop her daughter off with her babysitter that morning.
Luong and her husband were also in the middle of planning their daughter's first birthday party for Sunday, only adding to her stress.
"I had an uneasy feeling,'' Luong said of that fateful day. "I told my mom I felt like something was going to happen."
A witness told AL.com that the toddler was locked inside the vehicle for over three hours, from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. At around 1:15 p.m., Luong received a call from the babysitter asking why she had failed to bring baby Ella over as planned as it dawned on the mother what had happened.
Chris Conn, a nearby fitness center employee, rushed over to the scene to attempt to perform CPR on the baby girl.
"Her body was radiating heat," he told CBS42, estimating that the child's body temperature was at 105 degrees.
Luong and her husband spoke to AL.com following the tragedy, explaining that they wanted their privacy during this difficult time, but they also did not want the public to think they were monsters.
"Please ask anyone who knows me - I have never done anything wrong in my life,'' Luong said.
Little Ella was Luong's miracle baby, whom she called a "gift from God," after she and her husband had tried for years to conceive. Luong finally became pregnant after a collective prayer meeting at the couple's church.
"I asked God for this baby," Luong said. "She was our gift from God."
Friends of the couple called them extremely loving parents and devout Christians. According to CBS News, baby Ella is the 21st child to die this year in a hot car. About 37 children lose their lives from hot car deaths every year on average, according to Jan Null, a certified consulting meteorologist at San Francisco State University.
Click here to see photos of Katie Luong with her daughter Ella before the incident occurred, as well as photos from the scene of the tragedy and statistics about hot car deaths among children.