Local News

Mother wants answers to baby deaths at Fort Bragg

Posted September 21, 2010 6:13 a.m. EDT
Updated September 21, 2010 8:54 p.m. EDT

— Fort Bragg officials met Tuesday with families to discuss the investigation into a string of unexplained infant deaths in military housing on post.

The meeting at Murray Elementary School on post was the second in the past week to address concerns about the infant deaths.

Ten children, ages 2 weeks to 8 months, have died in military housing on post since the beginning of 2007. Two of the deaths occurred in the same home in a three-month period last year.

One of the deaths has been attributed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, but the cause of death in the other nine cases is undetermined, officials said. No foul play is suspected in any of the deaths.

Melissa Pollard said the lack of answers is frustrating.

"I want the truth. I just want to know why my son could not be here right now," she said.

Pollard's 2-month-old son, Jay'Vair, died in April 2009 after weeks of illness.

"He was congested, snotty, coughing, vomiting (and) just wouldn't keep anything down," she said, noting he got better after spending a few days in a hospital.

"When he came back home, it started back up," she said.

Medical examiners initially said Jay'Vair died of SIDS, but they now say they cannot determine a cause of death.

In July 2009, Pollard's brother, his fiancee and their young daughter, Ka'Mya, came to visit. During their stay, the 7-month-old girl died.

"I got four blocks away, and Bianca calls me screaming, 'Ka'Mya's dead! Ka'Mya's not breathing!" Pollard said.

Again, the cause of death was undetermined. Within two days, the family had moved out of the house.

"It destroyed me. I thought I had done something wrong," Pollard said. "I was afraid to keep my kids because I was the one taking care of them. I was the one responsible for them, and there was nothing I could do."

She said she is certain something toxic was inside the house, but officials haven't been able to pinpoint any environmental problem.

The Army Criminal Investigation Command and the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology are assisting Fort Bragg officials to determine if faulty construction or environmental factors played a role in any of the deaths. Officials said the initial investigation revealed no common factors in the deaths.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission is conducting its own investigation into whether Chinese drywall could be involved. Many people nationwide have reported getting sick in homes with the imported drywall in recent years.

CPSC investigators are expected in the coming weeks to take samples from Pollard's former home and a home in the Linden Oaks subdivision where a baby died in March. Results from the tests are expected back this fall.

Army investigators said their final test results won't come back until February.

Managers with Picerne Military Housing, which builds and maintains housing on Fort Bragg, say at least 70 families have asked for tests of their on-post housing to see if their homes are safe.

They said they have tested air quality and building materials for issues like Chinese drywall and mold, and all tests came back negative.

Pollard said Army investigators have kept all of Jay'Vair's possessions for testing, including his pacifier and the clothing he wore and the blanket he slept on the night he died.

"I had thought I had nothing to fear, but then, in 90 days, I lost both my son and my niece," she said.

Fort Bragg officials plan to hold another town hall meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday at Bowley Elementary School on post.