Tragedy strikes family after 2-year-old found unconscious in friend's pool.

A grieving father wants the death of his baby girl to inspire others to draw their loved ones closer.

Saylor Rose Kerlin, 2, was found unconscious in a friend's pool on October 4. She died four days later surrounded by friends and family in Starship's intensive care.

Her father Conor Kerlin hopes a ray of sunshine can be cast from the tragic accident. He wants it to be a wake up call for people to treasure their loved ones. If there's someone you've been meaning to call, do it today, he said.


"As humans we can be quite selfish at times. We hold grudges and focus on the things that aren't as important and as amazing like being together as a family.

"I want people to hold their kids tighter and forget the mundane, petty things that are breaking up families around this world.

"Instead of being sad and crying we want to remind people we were lucky to be a part of her life."

The family Conor and Chantal Kerlin with their children Saylor Rose, Luciana and Marley. Photo / Supplied
The family Conor and Chantal Kerlin with their children Saylor Rose, Luciana and Marley. Photo / Supplied

On the day of the tragedy, the Muriwai family dropped by a good friend's house to collect snow gear. They were heading to Ruapehu so the children could see snow for the first time. Saylor Rose walked off in the throng of kids that bounced around the house while the parents were talking.

She was discovered in the swimming pool. Saylor Rose's mother Chantal Kerlin gave her CPR until the ambulance arrived.

"She slipped around not where she was meant to be. We saw her too late," Kerlin said.

"It was just a horrible tragic accident... there are moments you can't be there when your child needs you."

While in hospital the family decided to donate her organs. That decision was one of the most unexpected and hardest they had to make, Kerlin said.

To do so they had to perfectly time Saylor Rose's passing with the nurses, doctors and child who needed the organs so they could be transferred quickly.

Once they removed her breathing tube they thought she would live for less than a minute.

"A few minutes went by, then five minutes, then 10 minutes... She went on for five or six hours until we finally told her it was ok.

"She knew that she couldn't do what she needed to do in this world, which was being the most rambunctious gorgeous child... We told her she could go."

Because so much time had lapsed her organs weren't able to be donated. Kerlin said it was Saylor Rose's way of deciding not to.

Saylor Rose's dad wants her death to be a reminder to people to reach out to those they love and
Saylor Rose's dad wants her death to be a reminder to people to reach out to those they love and "don't sweat the small stuff". Photo / Supplied

The funeral will take place at Muriwai Surf Club on Sunday. Any money from the funeral will be donated to Muriwai surf school for little nippers. Funds from their Givealittle page will go towards the family travelling for charitable projects. The Kerlins also want to set up a fund to support the nurses in Starship Hospital's Intensive Care Unit to acknowledge the good work of the "unrecognised heros".

Kerlin believed their daughter was a "star seed" - a child intended to be on the earth for a short time to help the people around her. She was fiercely independent for a toddler, a great problem solver and very cheeky.

"I knew she was special since the day she was born... Every single person she touched she changed their life dramatically," Kerlin said.

"She had great vigor and energy, she was wise and fearless, kind and sweet.

"All my child are amazing but this one was really an exception in so many ways."

Chantal was a member of exercise programme Crossfit and they had a very active household, Kerlin said. Saylor Rose could do three pull ups. The two year old was strong and coordinated for her age.

Kerlin is one of the four founders of Mexicali. Originally from Oregon he moved to New Zealand 12 years ago and started the restaurant chain after the family discovered there were no Mexican restaurants.

The couple have two older children Marley, 9, and Luciana, 6.

Kerlin wanted to emphasise that sometimes you encounter trials, tribulations and tragedies - but that shouldn't mean life ends.

"Life is so short, there are so many things. Let them get dirty or stay up a little bit late. Those are the things you don't want to regret. Life isn't about rules and bedtimes. Sometimes it's just about love and enjoying that day. Get muddy."

Visit the family's Givealittle page.