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Heartbroken parents’ warning after toddler dies in handbag strap tragedy

The Macphee family from Alness have paid tribute to 14-month-old 'beautiful, bubbly Mia'.

A recent photo of bubbly 14-month-old Mia Macphee.
A recent photo of bubbly 14-month-old Mia Macphee.

“Mia was bubbly, sassy, and every inch a daddy’s girl. We could never have foreseen losing our little girl. We thought we had years.

“We’re paying tribute to her because she was amazing … but also so this doesn’t happen to any other family.”

Tragic warning

These are the devastating words of Hannah and Connor Macphee speaking about their 14-month-old daughter who died following a tragic accident in the home.

Now, to honour her memory and to warn other families of the risk to small children of everyday objects, they are bravely sharing their story.

Mia was born on March 31 2022 at Raigmore hospital. The third child – but only girl – for the Alness couple. She weighed 7lb 11 despite coming a couple of weeks early by c-section.

Baby Mia with an open-mouthed smile
Baby Mia Macphee who had an infectious smile since birth.

“She was an amazing baby, happy all the time,” said Hannah, who is 28-weeks-pregnant with their third son. “This sassy little toddler, into everything, which we loved about her. She was so much more independent than her brothers. They liked cuddles and she liked to be into everything.”

Happy memories

As a family they enjoyed time together.

When Connor, a self-employed delivery driver who works for Menzies, returned home each night “Mia Moo” as they called her, would only have eyes for her dad.

Mia in her dad's arms at the park
Daddy’s girl Mia Macphee with her father Connor who she adored.

Her brothers, Alex, 13,  and Jacob, 8, doted on their tea-biscuit and strawberry-obsessed little sister.

As a family, they were looking forward to a new baby arriving in the autumn but were enjoying how Mia loved to beep the horn of her ride-on pink Mini car, and also her fascination with having a pineapple on her head.

Nothing will be the same

But everything changed for the family on the evening of May 24.

“Mia knew how to make her presence known. She had an infectious laugh, and though she could say mamma and dadda it was her spontaneous little screams that we were used to.

“When she went quiet we knew something was wrong.”

Baby Mia Macphee from Alness, wrapped in a blanket with a dummy in her mouth
Precious girl: Baby Mia Macphee, the only daughter of Hannah and Connor Macphee.

Hannah and Connor had only been in the kitchen, the adjoining room to Mia, for a few short minutes when tragedy struck.

Mia had become tangled in a small handbag-style rucksack with thin straps, which had been hanging on the handle of the door.

Calls for help

“Connor went to see. As he untangled her he screamed for me. I grabbed her and took her to the kitchen floor where I started doing CPR. Connor rang 999. ”

In what they describe as a blur of activity their neighbours arrived, followed by police and the air ambulance.

A bag similar to the one that caused the accident. A small black handbag/backpack with two long straps
A similar bag, though this one has thicker straps than Hannah’s handbag.

The level of detail being shared today is to help others, without causing unnecessary trauma for the couple’s two boys.

“We told our eight-year-old to stay upstairs. I wasn’t unaware of how serious it was. She was without oxygen for a very long time. It took 30-45 minutes for her heart to start beating again.”

Desperate journey

Mia was taken by ambulance to Raigmore Hospital. Connor and Hannah travelled by police car.

“We have this memory of knowing they couldn’t travel fast as there were a lot of people with Mia in the ambulance, but being so frustrated that people wouldn’t pull in to let us all through. You don’t always think about that until you’re in this situation,” said Hannah.

Very quickly the couple were told Mia’s situation was precarious. A team flew up from Glasgow to take over her care so she could be transferred to hospital in Edinburgh.

Difficult days

Mia was placed on a ventilator but her parents were warned she may not make the journey.

“It was horrific. Our daughter’s life was hanging in the balance, our home was effectively a crime scene because something so terrible had happened.

Mia cuddling up to her mum on the sofa
Mia Macphee looking content at home where the family loved to spend time together.

“But we had a small chink of hope in that she was coming off certain medications. Sadly it wasn’t to be.”

The family arrived in Edinburgh in the early hours of Thursday morning. Connor and Hannah stayed in the Ronald McDonald house, but by Sunday Mia had passed away.

Precious final moments

“We had the best part of four days with her there and we are so thankful for that. Our family were able to come and see her too.

“On that Sunday she just became distressed. All her vitals were changing and we knew we didn’t have much time.

Ready for bed, Mia Macphee, from Alness.

“She came off her ventilator at 2.10pm. Connor and I lay in bed with her. I had my hand on her chest and could feel her slipping away. Her heart stopped beating at 2.35pm.

“We fell asleep with her between us. That was the last proper time we had with our little girl.”

The next time they hold her will be in her casket, which will sit on their laps during her funeral service.

‘Please listen to us’

“We can’t stress this enough to anyone reading this: we didn’t even give a bag hanging on a door a second thought. But everyday things like that need to be thought about. The policeman who came to see us told us he once attended to a family in similar circumstances whose baby became tangled in a cot mobile.

“You never think it will happen to you. We’re sharing this with you so it never has to happen to anyone else again.”

Mia sitting in a pink childrens push car in the family's livingroom
Mia in her trademark pink Mini.

A celebration of Mia’s life will take place on Thursday June 15 at 2pm in Inverness crematorium. Mini enthusiasts from Alness area will be helping create a funeral procession.

“We’ve even found a pink Mini. She would have loved that.”

Special thanks

During their stay in Edinburgh a Go Fund Me page was started by members of the Milnafua community where the Macphees live. Initially, as a means to support the family while they were away from home, the more than £5,000 raised will now help pay for Mia’s funeral flowers and a memory garden is to be created.

They have expressed their deepest gratitude to their neighbours Fiona and Dan, the attending police officers, the emergency service personnel, their funeral directors and all those who have supported the family at this difficult time.

‘Miss you Mia Moo’

The couple have explained to their youngest son that Mia is now in Heaven, but the loss of their sister and daughter has not been easy on the family, and their extended families.

Alness toddler, Mia Macphee smiling with her big brother
Mia with her big brother Alex.

“We are devastated. It feels like we are telling a story that we know all the words to but it surely can’t be about us,” said Hannah.

Connor added: “Mia was always a happy child, always smiling and laughing. She had an amazing personality. We were so lucky to have had her in our lives. We’ll never forget you Mia Moo.”