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Dad Charged After Newborn Suffocates While Napping On His Chest

Photograph by CBS

The dangers of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) are very real, even though many parents can't believe that something as simple as co-sleeping or bed sharing could end in such tragedy for their own family. But one dad from outside of Pittsburgh is facing involuntary manslaughter charges after a heartbreaking accident left his infant son dead. Owen Labrenn Copney was sleeping with his son on his chest when the boy rolled facedown and suffocated to death, according to police.

Copney, 26, and his 1-month-old son, Isiah, were resting on September 17 when the dad fell asleep with his boy on his chest, according to NBC News. Unfortunately, when the dad woke up he noticed that Isiah had shifted and was "now laying facedown in the crook of his armpit."

Copney later told detectives that his son was "sweaty and not breathing" when he woke up, which is when the dad called 911.

Emergency services attempted to save Isiah at their home, but he had to be rushed to the hospital for further treatment. Sadly, Isiah died two days later. The official reason was sudden unexplained infant death, according to the medical examiner.

The baby's mother, Kayla Ball, told authorities she had warned Copney that falling asleep with their child on his chest was dangerous. She told detectives the dad had done this before and that he had accidentally knocked the boy off his chest while he was allegedly having a nightmare. Bu,t on that instance, the boy fell on the bed between his parents and wasn't hurt.

In another incident, Ball said she had to wake Copney up from sleeping because his arm was partially covering his son's face. When questioned by police, Copney admitted that Ball had warned him about the dangers of letting his son sleep on his chest.

Westmoreland District Attorney John Peck told WGN 9 that because Copney had been warned about the dangers of letting his son sleep on him, it would be hard to call the crime an accident. "An accident means that you have no control over the result. In other words, it just happened as a result of something that’s out of your control,” he said. “In this case, he did have control over the situation. He could have put the child back in a crib or a bassinet. It was reckless not to do that.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, "Approximately 3,500 infants die annually in the United States from sleep-related infant deaths, including sudden infant death syndrome." And the March of Dimes noted that the best place for a baby to sleep is "in her bassinet or crib placed close to your bed" to reduce the risk of SIDS.

The dad now faces a felony involuntary manslaughter charge and a felony child endangerment charge in his son's death.

Copney was charged on Wednesday but is free on a $25,000 unsecured bond. He still awaits his preliminary hearing.

This post was originally published on Mom.me sister site CafeMom.

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