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March 26. 2014 7:00PM

UPDATED: Child, 4, dies after choking incident outside Enfield home day care

ENFIELD — A 4-year-girl died Wednesday, two days after her coat caught on a makeshift lean-to outside an unlicensed home daycare, choking her.
 
 
"Willa Shine Clark was a bright light in our lives," parents Cara and Michael Clark of Enfield said in a statement Wednesday night. "She illuminated many of the paths that she crossed."
 
 
The daycare will be issued a cease-and-desist order from the state Department of Health and Human Services, according to Melissa Clement, chief of child care licensing at the department.
 
 
Enfield Police Chief Richard Crate Jr. said police were called at 12:43 p.m. Monday by the day care owner, who reported the child got caught on the lean-to and was not breathing. The woman was performing CPR on the girl. The 4-year-old was taken to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, where she had been in critical condition.
 
 
In their statement, Cara and Michael Clark said their daughter died "as the result of injuries suffered under tragic circumstances."
 
 
"We appreciate the outpouring of support from our friends and the community, and we are strengthened by that support," the Clarks said. "We will share information about a celebration of Willa's life soon.
 
 
For now, we appreciate the respect of the community while we grieve privately the loss of our daughter."
 
 
Crate would not identify the day care center where the incident took place Wednesday.
 
 
Clement said as soon as Enfield police disclose the name of the woman running the center to her department, a letter closing the day care would be sent.
 
 
Clement said police gave her the address of the daycare, but not the name of the provider.
 
 
"We had not received any complaints about an unlicensed program at that place previously," Clement said.
 
 
"We don't have the name of the provider at this time because they are still wrapping up the investigation."
 
 
Crate said the woman was caring for five children, some related, at the day care.
 
 
On Monday afternoon, she was inside with one child, but told police she was watching the other children playing outdoors.
 
 
The 4-year-old, Crate said, apparently climbed onto a small makeshift lean-to — a type Boy Scouts make, he explained — and somehow fell, catching the back of her jacket on a stick.
 
 
The day care owner did not see the fall, he said, but saw what she thought was a jacket hanging off the lean-to and went outside to check it out.
 
 
She found the child hanging by her coat, unhooked her and immediately began CPR, according to Crate. She then went back inside and called 911.
 
 
When the back of the child's jacket got hung up on the stick, it put pressure on her neck and collapsing her airway, according to Crate.
 
 
In response to a right-to-know request from the New Hampshire Union Leader for the address of the day care, Crate said Wednesday that the Grafton County Attorney had directed him to keep the name of the day care provider and other details of the investigation confidential "until investigation is finished and she has had a chance to review everything."
 
 
Clement said police told her none of the children under the woman's care were her own.
 
 
"When you are operating out of your own home, there are different thresholds for operating," Clement said. "You could have eight children and you do not need a license until you reach four children that are not your own."
 
 
If the woman sought to be licensed by the state, she would first have to receive local approval from the Enfield zoning, fire and health officials, Clement said.
 
 
"We're going to be sending them a letter to close because they are not licensed and they had more than three kids in their care," said Kris Neilsen, communications director at the Department of Health and Human Services
 
 
Union Leader Staff Writer Pat Grossmith contributed to this report.
 


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