Seven weeks after their toddler daughter drowned in a swimming pool, Olympic skiing champion Bode Miller and his wife have gone public with their grief, encouraging parents to become more aware of how quickly small children can drown and how prevalent such deaths are.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t pray for the opportunity to go back to that day and make it different. But now we have this opportunity to make other parents’ days different,” Miller’s wife, Morgan Beck Miller, said in a “Today” show interview that aired Monday morning.
Emeline, known as Emmy, was 19 months old when she died June 10, the day after falling into a neighbor’s pool in Southern California in an accident her father said happened “in the blink of an eye.”
It had been an ordinary day, Emmy’s mom, a professional beach volleyball player, recalled in the tearful interview. “Every morning, the kids would go swimming and Bode would go swimming with them, and they’d be in there for hours. And they loved it,” Morgan Miller said.
After attending a birthday party, Morgan and Emmy stopped at home, where Bode was leaving to take his oldest daughter to a softball game. (The couple has a son together and is expecting another child in October; Bode Miller has two children from other relationships.)
“He was loading up the car when we got back and I gave him a kiss. And out of nowhere, [Emmy] leaned over and gave him another kiss. And we were so amused by her reaction because it was not typical of Emmy,” Morgan said. “So I kissed him again and she did it again and we laughed. Then I turned around and I walked inside and she waved and said bye to her dad.”
She and her children then headed for their neighbors’ home.
“We go over, back and forth, multiple times a week. They’re family to us,” Morgan said. “And it was just a normal day over there. We sat on the sofa, and she played in front of us.”
With other kids playing nearby, “Emmy would go back and forth, which was all of 15 feet. And all of a sudden, it was just too quiet for me. We’re in mid-conversation and I stood up. And I turned and I went right to where the boys were and I said, ‘Where’s Emmy?’ ”
Emmy’s father, an Olympic gold medalist in Alpine skiing, described her as “a bear” who “had such a powerful bull-like personality where she just did what she wanted.” That made the silence even more alarming.
“Before Nate [their son] could respond, I turned around and the door that leads to the backyard, that was closed, had this tiny sliver of light coming through the side,” Morgan Miller said. “And my heart sank and I opened the door and she was floating in the pool. And I ran and I jumped in.”
She started CPR, and the neighbor called 911. Although it initially appeared as if the baby might survive, “the doctor said her brain had just not had enough oxygen for too long of a time,” Bode Miller said.
The Millers’ story is one that is familiar to all too many parents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified drowning as the leading cause of death from unintentional injuries for children aged 1 to 4. The Millers had taken precautions, making sure their pool is surrounded by a fence. Now, they want to raise awareness.
“We have the choice to live our days with purpose,” Morgan Miller said, “to make sure that no other parent has to feel what we’re feeling.”
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