Sean Smith was only 10-years-old when he accidentally shot and killed his younger sister Erin. She was eight. On June 5, 1989, the siblings arrived home from school and had the entire home in Miramar, Florida, to themselves.
Since they were all alone, they decided to go snooping through the house in search of some Nintendo video games their mother, Lee, had hidden away. When Sean opened up his father’s dresser drawer, instead of finding the games he came across a loaded .38 caliber pistol.
He immediately picked up the gun and began playing around with it, having no idea it was actually loaded. Everything happened so quickly. Before he knew it, Erin was slumped over. He tried pulling her up onto his lap and pressing down on the wound to stop the blood, but it was too late.
Within minutes she was dead.
Sean called 911 to report the tragedy, pleading for the operator to help his dying sister. It was an afternoon he will never forget. And the media made sure not to let him. His 911 recording was repeatedly played on broadcasts across the country, warning parents about keeping their firearms out of reach of children.
Sean later recalled that his sister appeared really frightened by the sight of the weapon and was trying to run out of the room before he pulled the trigger.
Today, the 36-year-old still struggles with the guilt and pain from that tragic moment. Sean recently visited StoryCorps with his mother to explain what happened that afternoon, and share their story on how they’ve dealt with the loss of Erin. You can listen to their emotional conversation below.
The photograph featured above was taken the day before Erin was killed.