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Boy's death ruled accidental

October 16, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Officials have ruled the Oct. 1 death of a 3-year-old North Prospect Street boy accidental, according to Hagerstown City Police.

Christopher J. Hook died as a result of his air supply accidentally being cut off while he was asleep on a cramped family couch, the Hagerstown City Police chief investigator said Wednesday.

Hagerstown Police Lt. Rick Johnson said the State Medical Examiner's Office released the finding Wednesday morning.

Johnson said the investigation revealed that Christopher Hook, his father Chad Hook, his mother Nancy Hook, and an older brother and sister all were sleeping on a couch early Oct. 1 inside their 438 N. Prospect St. home.

Johnson said they were sleeping on a "regular" three-cushion sofa in the living room, which was a usual sleeping arrangement for the family.

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At some point, Christopher Hook became wedged underneath his father, who is a "very heavy-set" man, Johnson said. The man's weight contributed to the boy's airway becoming restricted, Johnson said.

A Community Rescue Service ambulance was en route with Christopher Hook to Washington County Hospital at 7:07 a.m., according to dispatch information. Hook was in cardiac arrest, Community Rescue Service officials said.

By the time a police officer arrived at the hospital a few minutes later, Hook was pronounced dead.

Police immediately began investigating the death and questioning family members who were present in the home.

The State Medical Examiner's Office performed an autopsy on Hook the next day. Doctors found that the boy had died of "compressional asphyxia," Johnson said.

The medical examiner's office requested investigative reports and photos from the police investigation to complete its ruling. Hagerstown police, as well as the Department of Social Services and the Children's Advocacy Center, assisted in the investigation, Johnson said.

Dan Hook, the boy's uncle, said Wednesday's ruling was a relief and confirmed his belief that the death was an accident, but the three-week investigation was hard on the family.

"I know what I was going through. I can't even imagine what (Chad Hook, who is Dan Hook's brother) was going through," Dan Hook said.

"I understand they've (the police) got a job to do, but I think they need to get their facts straight before they put a family through what they went through," Dan Hook said.

Johnson called the death "a very tragic event."

"I think we handled the incident as professionally as we could at the time with the information that we had at the time," Johnson said.

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