HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — A miracle, that's what first responders are calling a terrifying crash that caused a family to roll over on I-4. Miraculously, three young children and their parents made it out essentially unscathed after a driver hit them.
Paramedic-firefighter Tobi Porter expected the worst. She spotted, between the mangled metal and airbags, children’s car seats.
“What goes through my head is that I’m going to see something on the other side, in a sheet. That I’m going to have to live with that for the rest of my life," said Porter.
Then another first responder tells her the family of six is okay — mom, dad, an eight-year-old, six-year-old and a seven-week-old newborn. The entire family, even their dog, coming out with just some scratches and stitches.
"Oh thank god. Ok, alright. That awful dark cloud has been removed," thought Porter when she was them out safely.
Porter is sure the outcome is thanks to one thing. The parents had every child strapped in a car seat and were using them correctly.
“I let her know ‘You know what, way to go, mom!'" Porter told the mom.
The nearly 20-year-veteran says misused car seat incidents happen more often than you think. The three most common mistakes she’s seeing are kids not in car seats to begin with. Parents seem to think after the child is old enough, they are safe.
However, Porter says it isn't about the age. It's about the child's size. Children need to be in a booster seat up until they reach 4 feet 9 inches tall. Secondly, parents should make sure they're using five-point harness booster seats, which protect the spine. Finally, make sure the child is properly secured and there is no slack between the seat and seat belt.
In early October, the lack of car seats led to deadly consequences. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, a 10-month-old and eight-year-old were ejected on I-75 near Fletcher Avenue. Troopers say none of the children were restrained. The 10-month-old died.
“Accidents happen in the blink of an eye," said Porter, "You cannot control the environment around you so you need to be prepared for the worst case scenarios.”