A police officer broke down in tears as she described diving into a freezing river and helping smash open the car’s window to try and rescue a two-year-old girl.
Little Kiara Moore was in her mother Kim Rowlands’s silver Mini when it ran into the River Teifi in Cardigan, west Wales in March.
Ms Rowlands left the car and her daughter for just two minutes as she nipped inside the family business, Cardigan Bay Active, an inquest heard today.
She returned and initially thought the car had been stolen before police spotted it in a nearby river and Kiara, who was a week from her third birthday, was found inside.
PCSO Caryl Griffiths cried as she told the inquest how she and another officer used a baton to smash one of the car’s windows open.
She said: ‘I then felt Kiara’s tiny body. She floated out of the vehicle into my arms.
Little Kiara Moore tragically died after her mother, Kim Rowlands’s, car rolled into a river
‘She was wearing a pink jacket which matched the clothing described by her mother.
‘As we reached the river bank I took hold over her and lowered her onto the floor, putting her gently on the ground.
‘Officers began CPR on her. All I remember is standing there looking at her body on the ground.
‘Her head was rolling all around the place and her face was purple.’
PCSO Caryl Griffiths, pictured at a previous public event, told an inquest today how she dived into the freezing river to try to save Kiara
Kiara was taken to University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, where she was pronounced dead later that evening.
At an inquest into Kiara’s death, Ms Rowlands said the car disappeared after she popped back into the family company’s office after going there with Kiara.
She said: ‘I work with the company and normally go there to work in the office. Since Kiara was a baby she has been coming with me to the office.
‘On the day there was nothing unusual… I parked on the slipway. Monday was only the second day I’d been there that year.
‘I checked the handbrake which I always do. I left it in reverse. I parked so that the back of the car was level with the scout hut.’
Ms Rowlands said she went into the family business with her daughter but, as they were leaving, she realised her bank card had broken.
She put her daughter inside and went back in to get some money from a safe before realising the car had gone.
She said: ‘The keys were either in the driver’s door or in the ignition. I told Kiara I would be two seconds. I opened the padlock and went into the office. I could hear Kiara in the car.
‘When I left there was singing and shouting. I knelt down by the safe in the office. I got a £10 note out and shut the door. I went out of the office and put the padlock on. I could see that my car was gone.’
The youngster’s heartbroken parents and family attended an inquest into her death this morning. Her mother said she left the car for just two minutes when the tragedy unfolded
The tragedy unfolded on this slipway into the River Teifi in Cardigan, west Wales in March
She continued: ‘I was gone for about three minutes. I went down to the river and couldn’t see anything. My next thought was that the car had been taken. I asked people if they’d seen anything.
‘I dialled 999 and told them my car had been taken with daughter inside. I looked everywhere. I phoned my mum as I was panicking.’
Speaking about the Mini, she added: ‘We bought the car second-hand and to my knowledge there were no handbrake issues.
‘Kiara normally sits in the front passenger seat of the car. Her seat is for zero to four years.
‘She’s used to travelling in the car and she liked to play with the radio controls but I never saw her playing with any other controls.’
Kiara’s father, Jet Moore, told how they had had the Mini for about three years and it had been regularly serviced with no problems other than normal wear and tear. He was not aware of any problems with handbrake.
The couple said they had the car for three years and had no problems with the handbrake
‘[The car] was often parked on a steep hill and we didn’t have issues with it,’ Mr Moore said.
‘Kiara was in the vehicle with us often and I’ve never known her to play with the handbrake. She wasn’t interested.’
Tests showed the handbrake was not in force at the time of the tragedy.
Investigating officer Sergeant Shane Davies suggested that Kiara moved into the back seat and that could have triggered the car rolling back.
He said: ‘Kiara made here way into the back of the vehicle. It could well be that the movement has been enough to overcome the gravity tipping point and the vehicle has moved away.
‘CCTV has shown that the car rolled off slowly so that may be one reasonable explanation. That movement has been enough to start that movement and gravity has done its thing.’
Earlier at the inquest, PCSO Caryl Griffith told how she dived into the freezing river and tried to force her way into the car, smashing a window to find the youngster’s body.
Describing her arrival at the scene, PCSO Griffith said: ‘As I reached the bank I looked to the water. I could see a small bit of the car above the surface.
‘I was stood next to PC Harvey and I said I was going to go into the water. I took off my vest and boots and dived headfirst into the river. The river was freezing cold and you could tell the current was really strong.’
PSCO Griffith added: ‘I put my head underwater and I could not see anything underwater. The car was fully immersed in the water and was facing towards the main bridge in Cardigan.
‘I swam towards the middle of the car and managed to climb onto the roof.
‘I went under the water by the front passenger window. The water was so cold I couldn’t keep under for very long. I went down to the window and could not see inside the car.
‘I was able to put both arms inside a small opening of the window. I could not see anything. I tried the handle on the outside but could not.
‘I felt something when I put my arms through the window. I came to the surface and said that someone needed to smash the window.
‘Myself and Nick managed to smash the glass after several hits and it broke. I immediately felt Kiara’s body. Both of us held her little body.’
Little Kiara died a week before her third birthday. Her family said she loved Peppa Pig and the book Dear Zoo. Her ashes were scattered from the top of Snowdon
Forensic investigator Aled Thomas told the hearing it would have needed to be set to just two clicks to stop it from rolling down the hill.
He said: ‘The vehicle was in good condition with no defects to note.
‘On the examination the handbrake was found in the unset position and not applied. Further tests were conducted on the lever. With the lever set on one click, which should provide some braking. On click two this would provide sufficient braking.’
Police said little Kiara may have caused the car to move by getting into the back
The hearing at Aberystwyth heard Kiara was flown to hospital in Cardiff but she was already dead. Her funeral was held on her third birthday.
Ceredigion coroner Peter Brunton gave a verdict of misadventure, saying: ‘As the car was recovered I find that the handbrake was down in third gear.
‘Miss Rowlands said she left it in reverse. When the car was recovered that was not the case.
‘The vehicle has been tested and was in good condition with no handbrake defects. There is going to be no satisfactory outcome.’
He said on the ‘balance of probabilities’ the handbrake had not been set before it rolled into the river.
He said: ‘A perfectly lawful set of circumstances has taken place which has led to death. Kiara’s family have my deepest sympathies.’
After Kiara’s death, her mother wrote on Facebook: ‘Due to my own stupidity, I will have to live with the guilt of this for the rest of my life. Mummy loves you baby girl and I’m so sorry.’
Her father Jet Moore said his little girl’s death had been a ‘freak accident.’