How Snohomish County children die

Child deaths are often preventable. That’s why the Snohomish Health District oversees the grim task of convening a review panel at least three times a year to study why county residents under the age of 18 have died when no obvious illness has played a role. Panel members include doctors, police, school officials, prosecutors and counselors. The panel reviewed 89 cases from 2003 to 2012 out of more than 579 deaths of county residents under age 18.

Key findings

Infants

  • Nearly half of the 89 deaths reviewed involved children of 11 months or younger.
  • In 31 cases, the panel identified one or more unsafe sleeping practices that might have been a factor. The cause of death in many of those cases is officially “undetermined” and may include several possible factors.
  • The most common unsafe sleeping practices were not being in a crib, bassinet or portable crib (25); sleeping with other people (17); and not sleeping on back (14).

Toddlers

  • Four of 10 child drowning deaths involved kids ages 1 to 4. Three of those occurred in a pool, one in a bathtub.
  • Four deaths involving youths of 10 to 17 all occurred in a lake or a river.

Teens

  • Twenty-three of the deaths reviewed — more than a quarter of the total — involved 15- to 17-year-olds.
  • A majority of young people who died in car accidents were ages 15 to 17. They accounted for 16 of 25 traffic fatalities.
  • Six of nine child suicide victims were 15 to 17. The other three were 10 to 14.
  • Five of the nine child homicide victims were 15 to 17 years old. The others were distributed evenly among the other age groups.

Manner of death summary

The Snohomish Health District examined the cases of 89 of 579 deaths of kids under 18 from 2003 through 2012. The cases were studied because no obvious illness played a role. Among those 89 cases, here are the causes by age category.

< 1 1-4 5-9 10-14 15-17 Total
Unintended injury 3 6 3 5 9 26
Undetermined 23 1 0 0 1 25
Natural causes 14 1 2 1 2 20
Suicide 0 0 0 3 6 9
Homicide 1 1 1 1 5 9
Total 41 9 6 10 23 89

SOURCE: Snohomish Health District

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