Virginia Mother Warns Parents About Proper Car Seat Use After Seatbelt Slices 6-Year-Old Daughter’s Stomach Open During Car Crash

A mother, Shelly Martin, in Richmond, Virginia is warning parents about the importance of booster seats after a seatbelt sliced her 6-year-old daughter’s, Samantha Swartwout, stomach open during a car accident, according to the CBS News.

On September 17 of this year, Swartwout was riding in the backseat of her father’s – Sam – car, coming home from the fair when he suddenly veered off the road and struck a tree. Although the child was wearing a seatbelt, she wasn’t in a booster seat and the impact of the crash caused the seatbelt to slice her stomach open, nearly “cutting her in half.”

When emergency responders arrived at the scene, Swartwout was laying in the back of the car, bleeding and unconscious. She was rushed to a local hospital with life-threatening injuries.

The child sustained a “concussion, a deep cut in her belly, and needed stitches on her forehead.”

Swartwout had to undergo an emergency operation after “the belt cut through her abdominal wall and left her intestines were protruding,” according to Dr. Charles Bagwell, a chair of pediatric surgery at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, who treated the child during her three-week stay at the hospital.

The doctor went on to say that during the crash, the child was “thrown forward with an absolutely enormous force, which caused the seat belt to almost act like a knife.”

Surgeons had to place a “binder around her stomach in a bid to hold her together.”

If the child were to have been in a booster seat, Bagwell stated that “she may not have needed an operation at all. Wearing a seat belt correctly has a tremendous impact if you are involved in an accident.”

According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, parents should keep their children in a booster seat until they have reached “8 years of age and 4 feet 9 inches tall.” However, the requirements vary from state to state.

The girl survived, but it prompted her mother to warn other parents about the importance of booster seats, saying that it could have prevented her daughter from sustaining serious injuries in the crash.

“It only takes a second to put your child in a proper car seat,” said Martin. “Don’t think that just because your child is 7 or 8 years that they are too big, they aren’t.”

“It is going to save somebody.”

Today reported that “the lap belt must sit across the hip bones while the harness goes over the shoulder and across the middle of the chest. Without the booster, the belt rises up and crosses the stomach. This means if there’s a crash the belt fails to restrain a child and instead causes injuries.”

Corri Miller-Hobbs, who is a nurse and program coordinator with Safe Kids Virginia, said, “Putting the shoulder belt behind the back is a huge no-no. Everybody needs to have a lap and shoulder belt. That same injury could occur to any one of us.”


A Go Fund Me page was created to help cover medical expenses and thus far, the family has amassed $5,352 in donations. In a Facebook post, Martin thanked everyone for donating, saying “Thanks again to all those that helped. It is so appreciated.”

After the child was hospitalized for three weeks undergoing medical treatment, she was discharged and is now recuperating at home.

“She has so many limitations,” Martin said.

“She’ll try to build a fort with her blankets but she can’t because she can’t bend over. She will cry; ‘How can other kids do this?’ and ‘When will I be normal?'”

The child is now “seeing a psychology doctor for possible post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”

[Featured Image By Shelly Martin/Facebook]