Real Life

REAL LIFE: One terrible mistake cost my son his life

Samantha, 30, shares her heartbreaking story about the loss of her little boy and how she coped with every parents worst nightmare.

By As told to Take 5

Samantha Rowlands, 30, Ermington, NSW shares her heartbreaking true story;

As I climbed into the car, I glanced behind me to check on the kids.
"Everyone got their belts on?" I asked.
"Yes," they droned, rolling their eyes.
I smiled and turned to my mum Valerie, 64, in the driver's seat.
"Let's go," I said.
Mum was dropping me off at her house where I'd get ready before meeting some friends.
Then she'd take the kids back to my house and care for them for the day with my partner David.
I was so grateful.
Looking after all of them could be a handful but it'd been ages since I'd had some "me-time".
Jonè, 22-months-old, his twin brother Esala, and Sapphire, eight, came along for the drive too.
My other kids Bryan, 14, Tevita, five, and Harper, four, stayed home with David.
In the back, the kids were discussing their favourite movie The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs.
Jonè could sing the songs word for word and had seen the film so many times, it's was a wonder he wasn't sick of it.
With my beautiful boy.
Of all my kids, he was my cheeky monkey but everyone he met fell in love with him.
His big sister, Sapphire, was especially besotted with him.
Despite their six-year age gap they were inseparable.
Sapphire always wanted to be around Jonè and even treated him like he was her own baby.
She loved feeding him and getting him in and out of the car. At Mum's house, the kids waved enthusiastically as they drove off.
"Bye Mum," they chimed.
"Bye guys, love you," I shouted.
Inside I had a shower to cool down.
It was a scorching hot day and I already felt flustered.
Afterwards, I dried off and checked my phone.
Five missed calls.
My belly flipped with worry.
There was a voice message from Mum.
"Sam," she said, distressed. "The ambulance is here, I think we've lost Jonè."
What?! A panic rose inside of me.
In the background of the message I could hear shouting and commotion before the call cut out.
I tried to ring her back but there was no answer.
My heart was pounding in my chest.
I dropped the phone and let out a wail as a wave of uncontrollable grief washed over me.
Next I tried my eldest son Bryan who picked up with a shaky voice."Mum, get home right now. Jone's dead," he said before ending the call.
I dropped the phone and let out a wail as a wave of uncontrollable grief washed over me.
This couldn't be happening.
In a haze, I ran outside so fast that I tripped and crashed to the floor.
I ignored the flash of pain in my knee as I clambered into a taxi to get home.
My whole street was cordoned off with police tape.
I tried to run through it to get to Mum and the kids but an officer stopped me.
"I'm his mother, let me through," I screamed.
A pair of uniformed detectives took me to one side.
"This is a crime investigation, we can't let you through but we do have some questions," an officer explained.
"Can someone please just tell me what's going on?" I wailed.
They said that Jonè had died and they're looking into what happened.
The flashing lights and media attention was overwhelming.
The flashing lights and media attention was overwhelming.
All I could think about was holding my little boy in my arms.
An officer said that they needed to clear the scene and I had to leave.
It was the last thing I wanted to do, but I didn't have the strength to argue.
Someone drove me to my sister's house, where the rest of the family were gathered.
I pulled the kids into a big bear hug.
Tears ran down my face as we just held each other tightly.
Even then, I could feel Jonè's presence was missing.
We didn't feel complete.
Eventually, I tore myself away and Mum walked in.
She'd been looked over at hospital after suffering from shock.
"I'm so sorry, Sam," she whispered as we embraced.
"What happened?" I asked. I still didn't know how Jonè had died.
Mum led me to my bedroom and fumbled with a tissue.
Puffy eyed, she composed herself before she started. She explained that when they arrived home from dropping me off, Sapphire had said she'd get Jonè out of the car while David came out to bring Esala inside.
It wasn't unusual for Sapphire to help get the bubs out as Mum can be slow with her mobility problems.
"I swear I looked in the back seat before going inside and saw nothing," Mum continued.
"Then I dozed off and woke to see the kids playing but I couldn't see Jonè."
Me with Esala, Jonè (right) and Sapphire.
What came next nearly ripped my heart in two.
"Sapphire found him still in the car. He was looking at her but wasn't moving," she continued.
"I ran out but it was too late."
She let out a wail and her body heaved with uncontrollable sobs.
I sat there in stunned silence.
I couldn't believe my beautiful boy was locked in the scorching hot car for more than two hours.
He must have felt so alone as the life drained out of him.
After that, I struggled to even put one foot in front of the other.
Police said Jonè's death was a tragic accident, and no charges would be laid, but Mum couldn't help but blame herself.
I felt completely numb but my other children needed me, so somehow I dragged myself out of bed each morning.
Burying my beautiful boy was so hard, I barely remember the funeral.
We had to stay at my sister's after that because our home had too many heartbreaking memories.
Jonè this year.
I'd just look at the kitchen table and remember Jonè giggling and dancing on top of it.
Being reminded of my boy and his zest for life was just too painful.
In time I found the courage to forgive Mum.
She'd made a terrible mistake but being angry would just tear our family further apart.
She loved Jonè as much as we all did.
Today, we keep our little boy's ashes on the mantelpiece and talk with him constantly.
He may have been forgotten that day, but his memory will live with us forever.
Valerie told Take 5:
Thinking back to that day, if I could go back change the situation I would.
It was a terrible accident and I can't bring him back.
I don't know what happened.
I should have known better as a 64-year-old woman.
But I love Samantha and all the kids.
It was the worst thing in my life and I'll take it to the grave with me.
I hope that by sharing this story no parent has to go through what we have.

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