Toddler's Carer Denies Responsibility for Seatbelt Death

Special-needs child from Netanya was apparently accidentally strangled to death by seat belt while driven home from school.

The woman suspected of causing the death by negligence of a 3-year-old boy on Sunday said yesterday that he showed no sign of feeling uncomfortable or unwell before he died.

Netanel Haim Amurabi, a special-needs child from Netanya, was apparently accidentally strangled to death by his seat belt while he was being driven home from kindergarten on Sunday.

Police on Monday arrested Rita Gusnayev, a municipal worker charged with escorting Amurabi into the vehicle before he was found dead.

Amurabi suffered from a rare chromosome five syndrome, which delays development. When he returned from kindergarten at about 6 P.M. on Sunday, his mother found him unconscious and apparently strangled by his seat belt. A first-aid rescue team took him to the city's Laniado Hospital, where he was declared dead.

The boy's body was transferred to the Forensic Institute at Abu Kabir for an autopsy, and was buried in Netanya's cemetery on Monday afternoon.

Gusnayev yesterday gave her first account of what happened to police. According to the suspect, the three special-needs children she escorted home had their seatbelts fastened by the driver before she boarded the vehicle. She claims she checked that the seatbelts were all fastened properly, and then gave the okay to start driving. When the vehicle arrived at the Amurabi's home she delivered him to his mother without suspecting that anything was amiss.

When Gusanyev noticed that Amurabi's mother had fainted and dropped her child, she assisted her and picked up the toddler. She allegedly waited at the scene together with the driver, and left only after a Magen David Adom ambulance arrived.

"My mother worked with those children and loved them," the suspect's daughter, Chen, said yesterday. "It's sad and hurtful that she's treated like a criminal. She's hurt and sorry it happened, but it wasn't under her control."

Police yesterday gathered more information on the circumstances surrounding the child's death from kindergarten teachers, and are awaiting findings from forensic labs. "We will formulate a legal opinion together with State Prosecution after we gather additional evidence," a police official said yesterday.

The boy's mother, Relly, said "he was a lovely child, smiling and handsome... They told me such children don't survive, that he would not develop... I proved the opposite."