— HOMEWOOD, Ala. (AP) — Katie Luong is inconsolable.
She knows people blame her for leaving her 11-month-old daughter to die in a sweltering SUV. But no one - not one single person - blames her more than she blames herself.
"I want to tell everybody that I wish I was in that car seat, not her," the weeping 31-year-old mother told AL.com/The Birmingham News. "If I had to die for her to live, I would have done that."
Gabriella Gi-Ny Luong, known to family members as Ella, was discovered by her mother about 1:20 p.m. Wednesday, still strapped in her car seat in the locked Lexus parked outside the family's Genesis Nail Spa. The temperature outside was about 90 degrees; inside the car it was roughly 127 degrees, authorities said.
Ella was unresponsive. Efforts, first by a nearby business owner and then paramedics, to revive her were unsuccessful. They rushed her to Children's of Alabama hospital anyway, where the staff pronounced her dead a short time later.
Luong, her husband, and a family friend Diana Huynh spoke with AL.com about the ordeal. They desperately want their privacy in this time of grief. But, they also don't want anyone to think they are monsters.
"Please ask anyone who knows me - I have never done anything wrong in my life," Luong pleaded.
Married for almost 10 years, the young couple tried for years to conceive. Success came only after their church family - the Vietnamese congregation at North Shelby Baptist Church - joined in collective prayer for conception for the couple.
They received the good news that Luong was pregnant one Thanksgiving. She had just graduated from UAB with a bachelor's degree in nursing and they decided on the name Gabriella, after the archangel Gabriel.