1. Archive

Infant dies 10 days after mom drives into water

Published Sep. 3, 2005

An infant who survived when his mother drove a sport utility vehicle into Biscayne Bay in an apparent murder-suicide died after being hospitalized for 10 days, officials said Thursday.

The boy, Reggie Thomas Jr., died at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Jackson Memorial Hospital, spokeswoman Heydy Reyes said.

The 3-month-old suffered irreversible brain damage while submerged and deprived of oxygen, said Dr. Barry Gelman, the child's pediatric intensive care specialist. Unconscious when pulled from the water, he never awoke, "showed no signs of higher brain function and persisted only with intermittent, irregular breathing," Gelman said in a statement.

Robert Boyers, a lawyer for the family, said the baby's father, Reggie Thomas Sr., made the decision to remove the child from a ventilator after he understood there was no hope for recovery.

Police said 22-year-old Kisha Bethel stopped her Isuzu Trooper on Watson Island for about 20 minutes July 15, then accelerated as she drove over a sea wall and into the bay, sinking in 10 feet of water.

Bethel and her 5-year-old daughter, Nadia Dorval, were pronounced dead at Jackson Memorial. Reggie was unresponsive when rescue workers pulled him from the sunken vehicle but regained a pulse on the way to the hospital.

Bethel's fiance and mother told investigators she had been physically abusive to the children. Documents released by the Broward County Sheriff's Office show deputies visited the home Bethel shared with her mother to investigate child abuse claims on three occasions. The Department of Children and Families hotline also was called several times with similar allegations.

All child protective investigations are turned over by DCF to the Sheriff's Office.

Days before the fatal plunge into the bay, Reggie Thomas Sr. pleaded unsuccessfully with a 911 dispatcher to protect his son. Miami police said the dispatcher, whose name has not been released, did not send an officer because Thomas did not know where Bethel was and Broward sheriff's deputies were handling the matter.