A baby’s death at an Anderson County day care was accidental, but likely could have been prevented if the tiny boy had been placed on his back to sleep, Deputy Coroner Don McCown said Monday.
McCown said the death of 3-month-old Tate William Kirby of Belton should serve as a reminder to never place infants that young on their sides or stomachs to take naps.
The in-home day care where Tate died is operated by Stacy Hinnant Burton on Youth Center Road near the Cheddar community. The day care remains under investigation by the South Carolina Department of Social Services and is closed while the probe is ongoing, a spokeswoman for the state agency confirmed Monday. Burton has not been charged.
Tate was found unresponsive at the day care Friday, when Burton went to his crib around 2 p.m. to get the child for a feeding, McCown said. McCown said Burton had swaddled Tate in a blanket and put him in the crib on his left side for a nap around 11:30 a.m., and had checked on him at least one other time before finding him unresponsive. McCown said that sometime after Tate was swaddled and laid on his side, he fell over inside the crib, leaving his face against a plastic-covered mattress that had no sheet on it.
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“Having a sheet on the mattress probably could have helped some,” said McCown, a veteran investigator of children’s deaths.
Tate died as the result of asphyxiation, the coroner ruled.
At the time of Tate’s death, Burton was caring for four other children in her home, all of whom were 5 or younger, according to investigators. One of those children was Tate’s older brother, Hudson.
McCown said the Anderson County Child Fatality Team investigated Tate’s death. The team includes members of the Anderson County sheriff’s and coroner’s offices, the state Department of Social Services and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
“We believe this is a horrible, unfortunate accident,”McCown said. “This day care operator has been well respected for many years and has never had anything like this happen.”
McCown said Burton has been a licensed day care operator since 2002, and that the Social Services Department had never found problems when inspecting her operation. Burton did not immediately respond to a phone message left Monday at a number listed for her day care.
Tate is the son of Nick and Whitney Kirby.
Nick Kirby is a youth pastor at First Baptist Church of Belton. His mother, Whitney Kirby, is a fourth-grade teacher at Belton Elementary School. They are both Anderson University graduates.
Their church on Brown Avenue is one of the largest in Belton, with at least 300 members. Anderson County Councilman J. Mitchell Cole is a member, and said the church presented a prayer vigil for the family Saturday.
“They are a wonderful family, very active in this church,” Cole said. “We just want to do what we can to wrap our arms around them in love.”
The Kirbys could not be reached Monday, but expressed their thanks for the community’s support in baby Tate’s obituary.
A memorial service for Tate will begin at 11 a.m. Tuesday at First Baptist Church of Belton.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks for “continued prayers of peace, strength and hope that through this darkness, Christ will be revealed.”