Ryan Kowal

Kowal, RyanName: Ryan Kowal.
Died: January 23, 2021.
Age at death: 21.
Cause of death: Negligence (Choked while unsupervised).
Location: Bakersfield, California, USA.

Ryan lived in a supported living facility. He had a tendency to put things into his mouth, so he had to be fed a soft diet and watched carefully to prevent him from choking.

Ryan died because he was left alone with some crackers by his caregivers, and crammed them into his mouth and choked. Staff knew the risk; seven months before, Ryan had nearly choked during a similar incident.

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Kedar Williams

Williams, KedarName: Kedar Williams.
Died: August 13, 2019.
Age at death: 19.
Cause of death: Negligence (Choked; diet plan ignored).
Location: Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, USA.

Kedar liked people-watching at the shopping center CityPlace. He liked riding the trolley. He often sat on his grandmother’s porch, just watching people walk by. He loved dogs and, after he had begged his parents for a long while, his family adopted a Yorkshire terrier named Bella.

When Kedar was in his mid-teens, he started having problems swallowing. While eating a meal with his family, he choked and nearly died; he spent time in a medically induced coma in the hospital before recovering. Luckily, Kedar’s problem didn’t prevent him from eating on his own–he merely had to have his food cut into small pieces, and have someone sit with him when he ate to make sure he ate slowly and washed each bite down with his drink. His mother and pediatrician designed an education plan, approved by the school, that he would always have one-to-one supervision.

Only a year later, however, Kedar was riding the bus–without an aide–when he got some snack food out of his backpack, put it into his mouth and choked again. This time, Kedar’s sister intervened and saved him. His mother went to the school and insisted that Kedar’s safety plan be followed, showing them a photo of Kedar in a coma to make it clear what happened when he was not supervised while eating.

At 19 years old, Kedar was starting another school year. His previous aide wasn’t available and he hadn’t been assigned a new one. At lunch, though he was supposed to be on one-on-one supervision, he was sharing an aide with another student. Two days into the school year, Kedar tried to eat some chicken nuggets. He choked and died.

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Xavion Young

young, xavionName: Xavion Young.
Died: January 7, 2019.
Age at death: 7.
Cause of death: Accidental/Negligence.
Location: Texas City, Texas, USA.

Xavion liked playing with hangers. He would play peek-a-boo behind a door, and hide under his bed and play with his tablet.

Xavion was fascinated with water, and his mother was worried he might get out of the house and drown. She asked her apartment complex to install a more secure lock, or a lock higher up on the door that Xavion wouldn’t be able to reach. They told her to wait. She asked repeatedly; they kept refusing. She offered to do it herself, and they told her no.

While his mother was busy potty-training his two-year-old sibling, Xavion vanished, leaving the back door open. He got lost, and 24 hours later his body was found in a pond.

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Zachary Chambless

Photo of a teenage boy with auburn hair and fair skin, wearing a gray T-shirt. He is in profile, gazing across the water of a pond. His expression is neutral, with his mouth slightly open.Name: Zachary Chambless.
Died: July 3, 2018.
Age at death: 17.
Cause of death: Accidental/Negligence (Gunshot).
Location: Roswell, Georgia, USA.

Zach loved anything that flew, from birds and bugs to flags and balloons. His mother even kept helium tanks at her house so she could blow up balloons for Zach whenever he asked. He always carried an American flag with him. His father would take him to a pet store so that he could see the birds.

Zach and five other disabled young people were out with a respite caregiver, riding in the man’s van. They planned to go on a camping trip.

Zach’s caregiver owned a gun, which he left under a seat with his disabled charges unattended in the van while he went into an ATV dealership. A 21-year-old man picked up the gun and shot Zach with it–an accidental shooting, since the shooter had an intellectual disability too and didn’t fully understand how dangerous firearms are. A 63-year-old man in the parking lot was grazed by a second bullet, a minor injury which he was treated for at the hospital and released. However, Zach’s injuries were immediately fatal.

The caregiver was charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless conduct. His program was found to be unlicensed and was shut down.

At his memorial service, mourners released 250 balloons.

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Katlego Joja

Photo of Katli Joja, a girl with brown skin and black hair in small, neat braids. She is wearing a red hoodie printed with flowers and smiling at the camera.Name: Katlego “Katli” Joja.
Died: May 6, 2018.
Age at death: 10.
Cause of death: Unknown/Negligence.
Location: Mamelodi, Tshwane, South Africa.

Katlego’s principal said of her, “People who know her will tell you that she was all about love.” She had a 13-year-old brother who was very protective of her.

When Katli went missing and her mother couldn’t find her, she immediately called the police, explaining that her autistic daughter was missing and they needed help. But the police told her that a missing-persons case could not be opened until Katli had been missing for 24 hours–even though she was a 10-year-old non-speaking autistic girl in extreme danger.

Katli’s family repeatedly demanded help from the police, and they and their neighbors searched as well as they could without official assistance. They posted flyers and recruited searchers via social media. The police finally became involved when somebody called in a fake domestic violence report.

Katli was found in the river a few days after her disappearance. Her cause of death is unknown.

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