By Bill Hudson, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Wiping back tears and fighting off emotions, Zaidan Wazwaz has a tough time talking about a friend’s sudden loss.

“Lovely, sweet, bubbly, you name it,” Wazwaz said, as he recalls the little girl he and his wife would care for.

Three-year-old Narjes Al-Ahmad was killed in a one-vehicle accident in Coon Rapids on Wednesday afternoon when the car her mother was driving went off the road and rolled into the ditch.

Wazwaz and his family are close friends of the child’s mother and would often have them over to their Coon Rapids home.

“Losing a child is not easy, especially since this child was adorable, active, fun … she is adorable,” he said.

The 3-year-old girl was in the back seat of her mother’s car, when it left an exit ramp at Highway 10 and Foley Boulevard in Coon Rapids around 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Twenty-nine-year-old Zaman Eltaji and her cousin, Alla Abuhamad, 20, were heading out to look for apartments when the accident happened.

According to State Patrol investigators, Al-Ahmad was ejected from her child safety seat and died at the scene. Her mother and the other passenger were buckled in and survived the crash with minor injuries.

“That particular seat was a five-point harness seat, and by all indications it was not secured or used properly,” said Lt. Eric Roeske, of the State Patrol.

Wazwaz said he is certain the child’s mother would always buckle her kids in. They would often drive the woman and her kids around on errands.

Eltaji came to Minnesota from Iraq where her husband is still waiting for a travel visa. She only received her driver’s license last month.

It’s unclear if the restraint somehow came undone, the straps were too loose, or a buckle wasn’t securely snapped. In any case, it’s a sad reminder to all parents.

Much like the video on Wazwaz’s cell phone of a little girl enjoying playtime at the mall of America, the reminder of a precious and fragile life that is suddenly gone.

“All in the hands of god,” Wazwaz said.

Roeske said the child would’ve likely survived had she been properly restrained.

“I guess the bottom line is, if a child is in the seat (he or she) is supposed to be in, and it’s used properly, the child would not be ejected,” he said. “(The seats) are holding a child in five different places versus a regular seatbelt.”

He added that a properly used child seat is the safest seat in a vehicle.

Roeske said the investigation into the crash will likely take weeks, and once completed, information will be passed along to the Anoka County Attorney.

Comments (82)
  1. JamieinMN says:

    I knew it……..that is so horrible. Especially when something like this is EASILY preventable. Rest in Peace child 😦

  2. markHT says:

    Let’s consider the more likely proposition, which is that this poor little girl was placed in her car seat without the mother ever having buckled it herself. This is more plausible than the child unbuckling it after having been buckled.

    1. jon says:

      Yep, our society never blames the parents for anything though. Just look at education.

    2. Claire says:

      Do you have kids? Have you ever seen how fast a toddler can maneuver their way out of their car seat? I have a 3 year old son who is CONSTANTLY wiggling his way out of the straps of his car seat after I have made sure that he was strapped in properly. It’s very likely that’s what happened here. Perhaps you should keep your judgments to yourself until the investigation is done.

      1. mae says:

        My kids have never wiggled themselves out of their carseats. There have been two times that I have forgotten to buckle them in. And besides if she was in the 5 point harness there is no way she got herself out of the seat. I could barely buckle those myself.

        1. Jenny says:

          Mae…my son(at 3 years old) could unbuckle himself from his 5 point harness carseat. They are much easier to unbuckle than they are to buckle. It happened several times while I was driving!! I promptly pulled over and buckled him up again. Many children are very capable of manipulating things that most adults would not think they can. If this child was properly restrained and unbuckled herself without the mothers knowledge, she will be living with this horrible situation for the rest of her life. She dosn’t need people thinking and publishing on a public forum that they blame her. She will aready be blaming herself.

      2. Sean says:

        Clare, I have a 2 1/2 year old and the only way I see your son doing that is becaue you don’t have it tight enough. If it is too loose or you have the adjustments not set properly, too high for his size then that’s the only way I see him getting out of it. My wife sometimes has it too loose, so I know what I am talking about

        1. momof5 says:

          I agree, I have 3 kids ages 2,3, and 4… the 3 and 4 yr old know how to unbuckle the harness strap but can’t unlatch the bottom latch. If your child is capable of wiggling their way out it is because you don’t have the strap tight enough. Also if I forget to buckle any of my kids, they are yelling at me that they aren’t buckled or that I forgot to buckle them. My kids also are aware that they’re to stay buckled until the car is stopped and the doors are open, they know that there is a reason they have to stay buckled and that if we were to crash they would be safe. They also see my husband and me put our seat belts on and they want to be like mommy and daddy. We have taught our kids at a young age that they are in these restrants for a reason and sometimes we have to do things we don’t like to or they can’t come in the car.

      3. Painful Truth says:

        Sounds like your kid needs five across the eyes…

      4. huh!? says:

        ………..Yes I have kids.. and hell no, my youngest cant wiggle his way out….
        that’s ridiculous..

      5. scott says:

        yep I have kids and that car never moves or stops moving when that happens. They quickly learned to stop it and to stay in their seat. The first couple of times I learned that I didn’t have the straps on correctly to begin with and educated myself. hint – hint

      6. Cris says:

        If your son is able to wiggle his way out, you are not using the seat properly.

      7. Jessica says:

        No, you are very, very wrong. If your child was buckled in properly, that would not happen. Buy a new car seat lady.

    3. Heidi says:


      I had a child that would get out of her carseat even though she was placed in it the correct way, so you should really be careful about what you say to other people. Kids are smarter than people sometimes give them credit for and it is very plausible that the child moved her seatbelt. My daughter was 3 years old at the time. I have a 3 year old son now who is restrained properly all the time and he slides the chest support buckle down and he thinks its funny and because he sees his dad and I adjust it all the time when buckling him in. I am constantly having to monitor and reposition it. I pull over on the side of the road to fix it and so does my husband. But let me guess we are just stupid parents right????

      1. Heidi says:

        I forgot to add with my dauighter constantly getting out of her seat, I finally had to call the police department and the officer who was in charge of the child safety department in motor vehicles came out to my house and spoke with my daughter and from that day on she never got out of her carseat. Sometimes they think it is a game to get out of their seat.

      2. Ann says:

        Heidi is so right, my son was a little escape artist. He would wiggle out, then you have to pull over to re buckle him in.This turned out to be the beginning of a very good wrestling career.

        Pay attention parents, it only takes a second for something bad to happen.

        1. Kim says:

          Agreed, my brother was quite the escape artist himself. 18mo old and he figured out how to unlock the front door and go down the street. Yes, they tried locking it even in the middle of the day. He was getting out of his crib shortly after he could walk – with the sides up. Mom could barely go to the bathroom without him getting into something. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how careful you are, the kids manage to get into something. Don’t pass judgement unless you know what happened. Have some sorrow for what the parents are going through.

      3. Jessica says:

        You are the parent…if your child messes with there seat and thinks its funny you tell them NO!!!! and there are consequences when your child does not abide by these rules.

    4. Michelle says:

      MarkHT, you must not have kids. I’m not going to jump in and place blame on the mother for this one. Maybe she didn’t buckle the girl in but, a 3 year old takes about 2 seconds to undo themselves. If she just sat there after unbuckling herself, the mother may not have known. Kids are experts at undoing car seats. Even a one year old can unbuckle themselves.

  3. Julie says:

    My kids, when they were 2 AND 3 regularly loosened their buckles in the car seats. Thankfully this never happened to us, but so sad that it had to happen at all.

    She looked like an adorable child in that picture.
    My heart breaks for her mother and family.

  4. red says:

    just getting her license? Sadly I tend to think the little girl was never buckled in the seat either and was only buckled in when she got rides from her family friend because he was there. She just got here also Sad story

    1. momof2boys says:

      who are you to say that the child wasnt buckled in and the mom only did it for show when the family friend was around- seriously who are you to judge and make assumptions based on someone you DONT KNOW and a situation you WERENT AT!?

  5. Bonnie says:

    3 year-olds are really smart. I would not be so quick to blame the mother. She is sad enough already and most likely beating herself up over this. When my children were small (and they are in their 30s now), they could unbuckle themselves in a flash. So, lets not be so judgmental. My sympathies to the mother and family.

  6. Pew says:

    I’m curious as to what led to the crash. Not so much if she was buckled or not. Hopefully, they’ll be able to figure it out from their investigations.

    1. AJ1 says:

      I wonder myself why they went off the road? The mother not having a lot of experience could have easily tried to avoid a situation in the road and over corrected, or maybe was not paying attention as she should have and when things went out of control, overcorrected. I can appreciate people saying their kids get out of car seats. My daughter is now 10, but her father and I never had a problem with that, and we had the 5 point harness, maybe the woman doesn’t know how to buckle it properly?

  7. JN says:

    My oldest boy could get out of any car seat there was. We were fortunate to never have had an accident.. Why must we always “investigate” and lay blame for tragic accidents.Shame on those of you speculating about what the mother did wrong. Shame.

  8. MW says:

    I have 6 children, and each & every one of them have been able to unbuckle themselves in any of the car seats they have sat in. This is a very common occurance and those with children probably agree. Those of you who doubt it can happen, obviously don’t have children.

  9. CS says:

    my 2.5 year old knows how to unbuckle her carseat belt. And it’s not something that would go noticed while driving. It is very possible that the child unbuckled herself.

    1. eastside_evil says:

      You wouldn’t notice your kid unbuckling yourself?

      Too busy doing a quick facebook quiz on your phone?

      1. grandmax3 says:

        Do you watch the road and traffic while you are driving? Or are you such an expert you can ignore the road and spend all your time behind the wheel giving all your passengers death stares in the rearview mirror?

        Get a grip and give all of the rest of us less than perfect parents a break for not having eyes in the back of our heads.

        1. JamieinMN says:

          I think eastside thinks he/she’s perfect….

        2. AJ1 says:

          They do have special mirrors that can be added onto the bottom of the rear-view mirror to check the child in the backseat to see what’s going on. Not sure what they are called, just know people who have them.

      2. Anna says:

        My kids youngest girl could get out of the child car seat herself by age 3.
        It was a constant battle with her, and I was grateful when she finally aged/grew out of it.

        And no, I didn’t always notice when she got out of it. For safety reasons the seat was behind me (in the back seat), as that is the recommended (safest) position for the child, not in the front seat alongside the driver.

        I understand how this could have happened, and my heart goes out to that mother. She’s going through culture shock as it is, dealing with language difference and learning to navigate in a totally new world with new rules and expectations, after dodging the bullets in a war zone. And now this. Out of the frying pan and into the fire.

      3. mom says:

        I agree, if any parent who has kids isn’t constently watching both in front of them while driving and checking the rear view mirror to see what their kids are doing is too busy not paying attention. I have 5 kids 3 in car seats and I am always checking to see what they are doing, especially when they are quite. To the parents who are saying their kids are always unbuckling themselves, you have to be more stern with them and let them know that it is not a game and that it is for their safety that they stay buckled. If they are smart enough to figure out how to unbuckle, they should be able to understand you are serious about staying buckled,

  10. kim says:

    How sad what a cute little girl. SD how rude you do not know what caused the crash even yet. Even if it was the mothers fault she still lost her daughter. Also there’s alot of not smart drivers out there all over this world. What about the stupid people that get behind the wheel and drink or do drugs and drive.

  11. Common Sense says:

    You people are patheitc. Bickering over who’s fault it is. Even if its the mothers fault, what good is pointing it out in hindisght? A 3 year old child is dead, period. Have some friggin sympathy and common sense, and let this one be. I hope you never know how it feels to lose your own child….

    1. Momma of 2 says:

      I couldn’t agree more. These comments are neither here nor there and are very hurtful to those involved. I hope and pray this little girl didn’t suffer at all.

      God bless everyone involved.

      1. AJ1 says:

        I agree, I hope she didn’t suffer at all either!

    2. Julie says:

      Finally, some common sense!!!! Well said!

    3. kim says:

      CS~ I was responding to SD commit witch was rude. So I was not one of them bickering just so you know. SD commit must of been deleted cuz that person swore on there commit.

  12. Mama J says:

    My 18 month old figured out how to unbuckle her car seat last week. I can only hope and pray this never happens to us. Maybe they should design a car seat that is harder to get out of.
    Much love to the family.

  13. Momma of 2 says:

    This is so terribly sad. It just breaks my heart that someone so innocent and helpless as a beautiful little girl died unnecessarely.

    May God comfort this little Angel’s family during their time of heartache and pain. Fly high little lady!!!

  14. snowiz says:

    Very sad! Seems we need child proof latches on these car seats! Maybe we need driver license laws regarding newly licensed adult drivers – like the ones for 16 to 18 year old new drivers? Not allowed to carry kids for the first 6 months, etc.

  15. eastside_evil says:

    I have 5 children. They wouldn’t dare have unbuckled themselves. They wouldn’t even do it now, and three of the five are teenagers. You know why? Because WE WOULDN’T LET THEM.

    If you can’t control your children, perhaps the root of the problem has been identified.

    IT’S YOU.

    Don’t let your 3 year old touch the darn buckle at all. How hard is that? Or do your kids typically ignore you…

    1. JamieinMN says:

      lol “don’t let your 3 year old touch the buckle.” Ok, shall we handcuff our children????? I’m guessing that’s how you did it with your kids.

    2. Kim says:

      Are you serious? My parents tried everything. My brother still did anything he wanted. Some kids just don’t care about the consequences. Unless you actually know the parson you are talking about you are just making assumptions and assuming you’re better and smarter than them.

    3. Amy says:

      You are better than I am for sure, but I bet you money when your kids ride with there friends they dont have one on. If you are so strict I bet they are doing a LOT of things you know nothing about.

      I have 4 kids and two were constantly getting out. I went through 5 different seats with one of them before we found one that could contain her. Last time I checked one adult in the car CANNOT sit and make sure the child doesnt touch anything AND drive! Give me a freaking break. I bet you rode with both parents and smacked them if they touched the seatbelt or anything else for that matter.

    4. Mama J says:

      mama j
      I’m guessing you must have beaten your kids and they were just scared of you.
      Get off your high horse and pull the stick from yer butt. Tell me how you would stop them from doing it while driving down the freeway at 60mph? Yelling and screaming?? get over yourself.
      My teenagers never unbuckled themselves but my 18 month old daughter can do it and I have to rig her belt so she cant to it. is an 18 month old ignoring me or is she exploring?
      Do you really think this poor mother and family really needs to read your hurtful words? How is it going to help the situation. or did your mother not teach you any manners? A beautiful loving child is gone. send words of love. Not words of the high and mighty selfish. You are a very heartless and selfish being.

      1. Mama J says:

        sorry for they typo… a high and mighty selfish being

      2. Good Ol Boy says:

        I’m neither heartless or selfish.

        Yelling and screaming? No.

        If your kids don’t listen to you and defy you, that’s something YOU DID WRONG. Again, how is it my kids knew better and yours defy you?

        And yet YOU insult ME and call me names.

  16. grandmax3 says:

    My grandson is 3 years old and is an expert at unbuckling himself. It happens. They sit back there in those seats with nothing else to do, they get bored and start playing with whatever is within reach.

    Don’t judge! God be with that family!

    1. Vicki says:

      My fiance’s 4 year old knows how to unbuckle herself, and yet she does not do this. She did it once we were in a parking spot and both of us calmly explained why she cannot touch her buckles until we give her permission. She has yet to do it ever again. I am not saying parents can always prevent this, but it is our responsibility to keep an eye on them and correct these behaviors. There were 2 people in that car besides the mother. I know when I am riding passenger I am always checking on her and the car seat. My fiance adjusts his mirror to check on her when he can. And if we ever saw her unbuckle herself we would immediately pull over and correct it, as well as explain again the importance of staying buckled. We always keep our seat belts on at all times as role models and parents should. Just my opinion. Not blaming, just my experience.

      1. Vicki says:

        I meant there were 2 people in the car including the mother. Sorry for the error.

  17. Bee says:

    really what did say wrong they are swedish

  18. Linda Mittag Humphrey says:

    Amen Claire! Lets just have peaceful thoughts for this family who lost this beautiful child and not judge.

  19. Bob says:

    Seriously! Whoever has a child that can unbuckle their 4-5 point harness child seat doesn’t not have it installed properly or they are not secured properly. I think the main problem with this is that parents think they are pulling the straps too tight. I have a 2 1/2 year old and my wife secures it too loosely and I keep trying to tell her that. The violent force of an accident puts a lot of pressure on the child’s body. My guess is that those of you who have children unbuckling themselves have it too loose or something is wrong with your child seat, if so, get a new one! Please double check the buckles too!

    1. JustSayin says:

      Kids CAN reach the buttons! They’re not THAT hard to push, BOB! You must have a straight-jacket for your kids.

    2. Kelly says:

      That is not the case, I was buckling my daughter up properly at 3 she was able to get out I watched her, she was in there very tight and correctly! and I even got a new seat which seemed to me to be more difficult but she still was able to undo that one also, Kids are smart. I don’t think it is as simple as you seem to think Bob, wait til your 2 1/2 gets older!!!

  20. Al says:

    People, if your children were able to get out of their car seats and unbuckle them something wasn’t happening that should have been.

    1). If the child knew enough to open the buckles then he/she was old enough, by some form of dicipline to learn that it was NOT ok to do that. The one or two times my kids did that, 1 slap on the hand and a firm NO! ended it.

    1. Jenny says:

      Wow…you are publically admitting you slapped your child to keep them from unbuckling thier carseat. I am “one of those people” who’s child was able to unbuckle himself at the age of three, and let me assure you he was restrained properly (I had it checked at the local WIC center).

      1. Good Ol Boy says:

        “Wow…you are publically admitting you slapped your child to keep them from unbuckling thier carseat.”

        The kid’s hand. Are you calling child welfare? You think the kid should be in charge instead?

  21. Kelly says:

    My daughter would regularly unbuckle herself at 3 years old. She was fastened in properly. I had to constantly stop and pull over and buckle her back up. Children at that age can figure out how to get out and yes it was difficult to buckle up for me but I watched her do it several times she did it with ease and I even got a different seat which seemed to be harder to get out of but she still was able to unbuckle herself.

  22. khalija says:

    i know the little girl she was at my house at 11 am and it happened a couple hours after i cant believe she was in front of me then she just died…

  23. Mother is at fault! says:

    I think so too! The blame belongs with the mother. Yes, people want to say the mother should be left alone, she lost her child, but she lost it because of her not being able to put a seat-belt on, and her driving ability isn’t that great seeing as she has only had her license for a month. And her cousin, in the passenger seat, should have been keeping an eye out for the little girl to make sure she wasn’t able to easily get out of the harness, assuming she was fastened in to begin with!!!

  24. Mother is at fault! says:

    Actually, I forgot to mention, she most likely doesn’t speak English that well, what the Hell is she doing with a driver’s license? I firmly believe that if you are in Amierica from another country, you should learn English before obtaining a license, if you can’t speak our language, you shouldn’t be driving a car!

    1. Witness says:

      The mother spoke English just fine! I talked to her at the accident!

    2. wallflower says:

      She just got to America, so yeah…it’s only logical that she would just be getting an American license now. Just becauseshe just got her license doesn’t mean she isn’t an experienced driver in another country. C’mon, lets use our brain.

      This was a tragic accident and you all sitting in the peanut gallery laying blame is disgusting. The child could have undone her seat belt, the mom could have not installed it properly or buckled it properly. Either way, it was a tragic accident. Where is your sympathy for the family of this sweet baby girl? The mom has to live with this forever.
      @mother is at fault: you say assuming a lot in your reply. Well you know what happens when you ASSume….

  25. Witness says:

    I was one of ONLY a few people that went and tried to help before ANY police or ambulance had arrived. As I was running down the hill, I saw the little girl laying there “Gasping” for air. This is a HORRIABLE accedent, and I will be haunted by the image of this beautiful little girl breathing her last breath. We just ALL need to remind ourselves to make sure our kids are buckeled up. We can ONLY guess if the girl unbuckeled herself or her parent didn’t buckel her. The point is a life was lost, that should not have. The car seats WHERE in place and secured in the car, and there was PLUNTY of room to live if she was buckeled properly.

  26. infinitygirl says:

    Ok.. everyone is talking about the child and the car seat situation, but did anyone stop to think how fast she was taking that turn?????? That turn comes up fast and people go way to fast around it!! If she was going the speed limit this would have never happened!!!!!

    1. AJ1 says:

      Thank you! Finally someone with common sense!

  27. mmm says:

    Anyone who blames the parent for this tragedy take a good look in the mirror. It seems very unlikely to me that she deliberately left her child unbuckled, but buckled herself in (read article). Horrible, tragic accident. That’s all, folks — let this girl RIP and get your heads out of your behinds.

    1. AJ1 says:

      I am a parent myself, and yes, I do blame the woman, no matter what way you look at it, whether it be due to her driving too fast or not buckling the child in properly, she is responsible.

  28. Disgusted says:

    I wonder, if this were a white, American’ born child, would there be more sympathy for the parents???

    1. Kevin says:

      No….I would still say “place her in prison”….but I would leave out the “no more immigrant” part…

  29. Kevin says:

    Place her in prison!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  30. anonymous says:

    Just wanted to chime in and add something quick. A previous poster mentioned getting her seat checked at the local WIC clinic. This is awesome and so commendable for a parent to take an extra step to ensure their child’s safety. Sometimes though, a WIC clinic may not be THE best avenue. Case in point, my brother had a “certified carseat tech” (at a county Public Health office here in Southern Minn) check his son’s seat. It was an awful installation and could be moved halfway across the backseat. His “tech” apparently did not care and was just certified because the county required her position to be.
    A better place to check your install might be a local Car Seat Clinic, or a local hospital. Otherwise, has a listing of certified techs in your area. You’ll be able to tell if they care, or are just grumbling through it.

    What a sad, sad story. I hope the passing of this little girl gets the point through to at least one parent.

  31. KENNY says:



    1. AJ1 says:

      Thank you! I’m glad your wife didn’t flip over, but I do agree with what your saying about how it happened. Obviously I wasn’t there, but there’s only so many ways it could have happened.

  32. Lets be thankful says:

    Okay people. A life has been lost, we have aired our opinions. Most on the side of the mother. Most of us our parents and grandparents and we understand how the mother feels about this. Lets make sure the buckles and belts are tight enough, make sure the seats are fastened to the car properly, and when we can look in the rearview mirror to check on our precious cargo. Time to end all this fussing and be thankful for our children.

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