Exclusive Interview: ‘My daughter was the light of my life.’ - Parents of autistic toddler who died in icy pond share their story

Parents of autistic toddler who died in icy pond share their story

OLMSTED TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WOIO) - An Olmsted Township toddler was tragically killed after falling into an icy pond in her own backyard. Her father tried to rescue her but got stuck in the ice himself. Our Kelly Kennedy sat down with the little girl’s family for an exclusive interview.

“I don’t know how to go home anymore,” cried Miranda Haggard, Carmen’s mother. “I can’t go home because my daughter’s toys are everywhere.”

It’s something you hope you never have to face as a parent, the death of your child. Miranda and Joshua Haggard are still trying to come to grips with the fact that their three-year-old daughter is gone.

“It’s just been chaos, and I can’t even believe it,” Joshua Haggard, Carmen’s father, said. “I’m just waiting to wake up and realize this was just a horrible nightmare.”

Wednesday started out a happy day for Joshua and his only child. She was playing outside in his backyard while his mom kept an eye on his daughter. The next thing he knew, his mom ran in, saying she no longer saw his daughter, Carmen.

“I went out to the pond, and I see her standing in there on the ice which, my heart just drops,” the father said.

Joshua says he knew the ice wasn’t thick, so he tried to yell to his daughter to come to him.

“Of course, Carmen takes that as play, and if you tell her come, she runs away; she loves to hide, she loved playing games like this.”

Carmen has autism and was known to wander off.

“I started running around the side of the pond trying to keep up with her so I could hopefully get to her,” Joshua recalled. “She hit a weak spot in the ice and went under. So without a second thought, I just ran up onto the ice, got about three strides out there, and I’m in underwater.”

Joshua couldn’t pull himself out. He screamed for his mother to call 911.

“Then it just becomes, can I keep up above the water? Can I try to get to her? How can I do anything?”

Olmsted Township police arrived and tried to rescue the father and daughter.

“I do remember when they got there, and they were trying to kneel on the ice and reach a stick out to me, and I didn’t have the finger strength to grab,” the father explained. “So, then he laid across the ice and grabbed my wrist, and as soon as the weight came in, me and him both were in.”

Officers rescued the father and the other officer.

“He saved my life,” said Joshua. “They all did. Incredibly grateful. They did everything in their power to do it.”

By the time they got carmen out from the ice, she was unresponsive. Paramedics took her to the hospital, where she died. Carmen also leaves behind a loving stepfather.

“Never take for granted any damn day ever,” said Andrew Mann, Carmen’s stepfather. “She was gone so fast. I held her as she was gone. It hurts. She deserves to be here.”

The parents say their number one regret is not fencing that pond.

“We talked about doing it,” explained Miranda. “We just never had the time or money. No expense is too short. Instead of paying 10 grand for a fence, I’m paying 10 grand for a funeral.”

The family wants the world to remember carmen for how special she was.

“She was wonderful,” her father said. “She was inquisitive. I mean, all the articles say it’s an autistic girl. She was so much more than that. She was brilliant.”

“I woke up with my daughter, and I went to sleep with my daughter, and that’s been pretty much a constant for the last three and a half years. I don’t know how to live without her,” her mother said, choking back tears.

The family is accepting donations for Carmen’s funeral.

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