Bode Miller, one of the most celebrated U.S. skiers in American history, and wife Morgan Miller shared raw and painful details about the drowning death of their 19-month-old daughter, Emeline, this week as part of their new campaign to educate others about pool safety.
In their first public interview since the fatal accident on June 10, Morgan told "Today," "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."
Heartbroken and tearful, Morgan recalled the last happy memory the couple shared together with their daughter, when Bode—unknowingly—said his final goodbye to little Emmy.
"He was loading up the car when we got back, and I gave him a kiss. And out of nowhere, she (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.”
Once he was gone, Morgan said she took the kids over to the neighbor's house to play. Not long after, while the boys played nearby, "mother’s intuition" kicked in and she sensed that something was wrong.
“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?’”
Panicked and fearing the worst, Morgan said she turned around and noticed that the door leading to the neighbor's back yard, which was closed at the time, had a tiny sliver of light coming through the side.
“And my heart sank," she said. "I opened the door and she was floating in the pool."
She immediately jumped into the neighbor's pool and pulled Emmy out of the water—starting CPR while her neighbor called 911. Despite efforts to save her, Emeline Miller later died at the hospital.
The couple said they did everything they thought they were supposed to do—enrolling the older kids in drowning-prevention classes and installing a fence around their pool—but it still wasn't enough to protect their daughter.
Although opening up about the loss was not easy, Bode says he felt obligated to do so.
"It's the No. 1 way that you could potentially lose your kid,” he told "Today" about learning that drowning is the top unintentional cause of injury death for kids 1 to 4 years old. If it's No. 1 for me, I want to know about it.”
His wife, Morgan—still beating herself up over what happened—could not agree more.
“Guilt is a very painful thing," she said. And though the experience has made her more aware of pool safety, she wants to make sure "it doesn't ever happen again" to anyone else.
This morning, she told the morning show about a new partnership (and friendship) she has with Nicole Hughes—a Tennessee mother whose 3-year-old son, Levi, drowned while on a family vacation the same week that Morgan lost her daughter.
Hughes, creator of Water Guardians: Levi’s Legacy—a tag system to hold parents accountable while helping to prevent future drownings—said she always took water safety seriously.
Children, on the other hand, are curious by nature, and it doesn't take long for one to wander off.
“It’s truly seconds,” Hughes said. “That is how quickly he got away from us and how quickly he drowned."
The two women have since come together to honor their children and raise awareness about pool safety. Together, with help from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), they hope to make water safety conversations a part of all pediatric checkups.
In a statement to NBC, Colleen A. Kraft, M.D., FAAP and president of AAP, said they "welcome the opportunity to participate with the families on a national drowning project."
Both Morgan and Hughes, who attribute their passion to "mama fuel," plan to monitor the statistics to make sure the rate of drowning declines.
"We are sisters on a level that, I pray, no other women need to find," Morgan said.