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Family’s emotional plea for answers after 9-month-old dies following incident at Douglas child care center

Published: Jun. 10, 2021 at 11:21 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 11:23 PM EDT
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ATKINSON, Ga. (WALB) - The family of a 9-month-old child who died after a dried pinto bean got lodged in his throat while at a Douglas child care center is sharing their story for the first time exclusively with WALB News 10.

On Thursday, the family gave an emotional plea for answers and justice for their child, Hunter Hersey.

“He was fighting so hard to breathe that his little body couldn’t keep up with it,” said Marie Hersey, Hunter’s mother.

Hunter’s parents described him as a happy baby that was sweet and full of life.

Marie and Shane Hersey said they sought care from Akim Academy after having a good experience with theIir 7-year-old daughter.

Hunter Hersey
Hunter Hersey(Hersey Family)

Recalling that day, fighting back tears, Marie remembered the drive to Savannah when the doctors called her and said they figured out what was stuck and blocking Hunter’s airways.

“I just prayed, I just prayed for him,” said Marie. “If they would’ve called us at approximately 10:30 a.m. when he started having breathing issues and turning colors with them, I believe we would still have had our little boy here,” said Hersey.

The family’s attorney, David Dozier, said that no records have been found of any calls made. Only the one Marie’s mother received four hours after the incident.

Marie said time was wasted searching for something the daycare swore couldn’t happen, Hunter swallowing something under their care.

She said time was critical and if they would’ve known, they could’ve removed it before it swelled and blocked his airways.

“It’s 12 hours he suffered while they watched him for four and a half of it and didn’t call. I don’t know how you can watch a baby,” said Marie.

“The child was tortured through this for that period of time, not just from one hospital but by two hospitals with all the different procedures going on because of the lack of knowledge. It’s just amazing to me. And again, it’s absolutely, totally preventable. All it took was one voice in that place to speak up,” said Dozier.

Hunter Hersey
Hunter Hersey(Hersey Family)

Dozier said it’s common sense not to put choking hazards in front of an infant. He said the biggest problem they’re facing is a cold attitude from those involved and a delay of answers in the investigation.

They just want justice for Hunter.

Hunter is buried in a cemetery close to home.

His mom said parents should not have to bury their babies. She said she was planning his first birthday when things took a turn and instead had to plan a funeral.

Hunter is buried in a cemetery close to home.
Hunter is buried in a cemetery close to home. (WALB)

“She doesn’t understand why she didn’t get to keep him that long, she doesn’t understand why God needed him so soon,” said Shane.

The Hersey’s said they’re trying to stay strong and they’re trying to keep life normal for their daughter, who they say asks about her baby brother.

The family said they are grateful for the community’s support and for Bright from the Start’s investigation.

They said they’ll continue to fight to hold those at fault responsible and help prevent this tragedy from happening again to another family.

WALB contacted the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, they said they are not involved in this case. We’re working on getting an update from the Coffee County Sheriff’s Office.

No one has been charged.

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