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16 Kids Dead in 2 Months

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On Sunday, another baby was accidentally left in a hot car to die. Why it happens -- and how it can be prevented.

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It feels like we keep hearing the same story over and over -- a helpless child or baby was left behind in a hot car to die. In fact, by our count, 16 kids have died this way in the U.S. in the past two months alone.

- July 27 - 14-month-old Markus Anthony Lewis of Texas was left in the car for an hour after coming home from a local water park. His mother thought the father had taken him out of the car with their other two children, and his father thought the mother had.

- July 24 - 4-month-old Seiaires McHenry of Wisconsin was found dead in an SUV outside a daycare center, apparently left unattended by an employee of the center who picked him up that morning. He was left in the car for over seven hours.

- July 21 - 19-month-old Kamilla Brown of Texas was left in her daycare van for six hours before she was discovered. State licensing officials later shut down that daycare center.

- July 21 - 23-month-old Jack Winchester of California was left in his car after his mother took him and his two siblings grocery shopping. She thought the other two children were watching him while she unpacked groceries. He was left in the car for several hours.

- July 19 - 4-year-old Gregory Cesar of Florida was left in the car on his mother's wedding day while she got her hair and nails done. She thought a friend had taken him, but he had snuck back in the car. He was left there for more than two hours.

- July 13 - 18-month-old Alyssa Stouffer of Michigan was left strapped in her car seat in the driveway of her home in near 90-degree temperatures. The father accidentally left the baby in the truck after running an errand. The baby wasn't discovered until mother Laura Stouffer, 26, returned home from work late in the afternoon and couldn't find her child.

- July 13 - 2-year-old Angel Castillo of Texas was accidentally left in a hot car by his uncle who was taking him and other young relatives to swim at his apartment complex's pool. The uncle told the children to get out through the passenger side and to hold hands as they walked to the apartment, but Angel remained in the car, unnoticed, for over an hour. 

- July 8 - 2-year-old Chase Harrison of Virginia, who had been adopted from Russia just two months prior, was left in a car in front of his father's workplace after the dad forgot to drop him off at daycare before work. He was trapped in the car for nine hours.

- July 8 - 3-month-old Faith Nichols of Tennessee was left in a hot car in a parking lot while her mother drank and hung out at two bars. The newborn was left in the car for six hours.

- July 3 - 2-year-old Andrew Culpepper of Virginia was picked up from a relative's house by his father, but his dad forgot to bring him inside the house when they got home. It is unknown how many hours he was locked inside the car.

- June 27 - 2-year-old Amariya Danikels and her sister Kassandra, 19 months, of North Carolina died after trapping themselves in a neighbor's car for at least a half hour. They had been playing outside with their 4-year-old brother when they climbed into the unlocked car and were unable to get out.

- June 17 - 6-month-old Daniel Scott Hadley of Utah died after his mom went to a friend's house and accidentally left him in the car for two hours.

- June 14 - 3-year-old Rakala McLaughlin of South Carolina and her four siblings were visiting their aunt and uncle when she snuck off to play in a car. By the time she was discovered an unspecified amount of time later, she was dead.

- June 10 - 6-month-old Nicholas McCorkle of Pennsylvania died when his grandfather forgot to drop him off to daycare on his way to work. He accidentally left him in the car for six hours.

- June 8 - 4-year-old Jason Rimer of Nevada, who had special needs, died when his family forgot him in a car after a family outing. He wasn't discovered by his parents or seven siblings until the next morning. He was trapped in the sweltering vehicle for 17 hours.

According to Janette Fennell, founder and president of Kids and Cars, a national nonprofit group that advocates for child safety, roughly 36 infants and children die annually in the US from being trapped in hot cars. 22 children have died already this year.

How can a parent forget their child? "Everyone thinks these parents are bad or strung out on drugs, but parents who've lost their kids in these types of accidents include pediatricians, doctors, school principals, lawyers, and NASA engineers," she says. "For the most part, these are highly educated, extremely loving and doting parents."

She says these accidents have little do with how good a parent is, and everything to do with how a memory functions -- or doesn't function. "In the early '90s, these cases were rare. But then in the mid-'90s, front passenger airbags were installed in cars and there was a huge campaign to get kids to move to the back seat. An unintended consequence of this was kids dying of hyperthermia in cars -- because children were out of sight, out of mind."

In many of the cases, forgotten children are under the age of 1 in rear-facing car seats. Their parents are not sleeping much, which comes into play. "And in an overwhelming majority of cases, there has been a change in routine," Fennell explains.

She says the biggest mistake parents can make is thinking this cannot happen to them. "That's what these parents probably thought, too," she says. Fennell shares three ways to help prevent these deadly accidents:

1. Starting today, put a teddy bear or stuffed animal in your child's car seat. When your child is in his or her car seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat as a visual reminder your child is in the back seat.

2. Keep your lunch bag, employee badge, or purse in the back seat. That way, you'll always reach in your back seat or open your back door when  you arrive to your destination.

3. Have an ironclad policy with your daycare provider that if your child does not show up, that person will call a provided list of contacts to confirm his or her whereabouts. "In so many cases, if the daycare provider would have called, tragedy could have been averted," says Fennell.

Kids and Cars is working hard to pass legislation that would require lawmakers to install weight-recognition sensors in cars that would alert parents who've left their kids in the back seat. "We won't give up until it's passed, because it would save countless lives," Ferrell concludes.

What do you think of parents who've left kids in cars: was it a tragic accident or the result of just plain neglect?


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79 comments so far | Post a comment now
Vita July 29, 2008, 9:14 AM

I JUST READ THIS AND I AN SICK, JUST HEARING ABOUT ONE CHILD IS ENOUGH, BUT 16!!!!!—IN 2 MONTHS THERE ARE NO WORDS FOR IT. I HAVE 3 CHILDREN AGES 15,11 AND 3 AND HAVE NEVER LEFT ANY OF THEM IN A CAR AND FORGOTTEN ABOUT THEM.

SOMETHING HAS TO BE DONE TO STOP THIS FROM HAPPENING AT ALL!!!!!!!!!!—COME ON PARENTS AND DAYCARE PEOPLE THESE ARE BABIES, WTF!!!!!!

Sad July 29, 2008, 9:35 AM

It breaks my heart that this happens all to often. I really hope the mom that left her 3 month old in the car while she went bar hopping goes to prison for along time. There’s no excuse for that!

Anonymous July 29, 2008, 10:15 AM

These numbers are too high! Very tragic.

Good tips - each family should have their own reminders that work for them.

momof9 July 29, 2008, 10:31 AM

I think we all just need to slow down enough to start putting our children first again. Most of the ones that could even be considered partly “accidental” are the result of parents who probably never thought they would do something like this, forgetting that they had their child in the car. When you are sleep deprived and overstressed anything can happen if you expect it and plan for it by leaving important stuff in the back etc. You may save your childs life. I am an overworked and often sleep deprived parent and I know that it can happen to me so I plan for it. I have 9 children and often have more when hauling other folks children. I always count how many children are with me jot it on a sticky note and put it on the center of the steering column. Then when we return home or get where we are going I stand at the van door and count how many are getting out… I also get in and do a manual seat check even when I know I am alone(my husband thinks I am nuts) There have been several times when after counting I realized one of the toddlers was still sleeping in the back of the 15 passenger van I drive.I have to force myself to stop and check the van every blessed place we go…but the counting and being deliberately aware even when I don’t think I need to worry about it keeps anyone from being locked in and left alone. If you think you would never forget you are a prime candidate to make the news.

Candes July 29, 2008, 11:37 AM

It breaks my heart as well. It can happen to anyone and THAT’S scarey! My husband fears this since he doesn’t often travel alone w/ the kids.

I think something has to be done. I like the idea of leaving personal belongings in the back seat. I’ve heard of one father connecting a strap to the carseat and the loop in his pants.

He can’t get out of his chair unless he unhooks himself from the carseat end.

DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO REMIND YOURSELF!!

Wendi July 29, 2008, 11:46 AM

This is all so sad. Poor little kids dying in such a tragic way. I truely believe that once you have children they should be your NUMBER ONE concern at ALL times no matter what. People really need to think before they have kids and if they can not say that they will put their kids first at all times, then they really should not have them. This is the type of thing that happens when you don’t. It is that simple!

I really just don’t understand how you can physically put a child in a car seat and then forget them. Then to not even think about your child for hours. I can’t imagine not knowing that my 2yr old is not in the house. They are mobile and talk, how do a person explain that?? It seems to me that people just don’t care and think that they can just have another baby if something happens to the one they have. How sad, I am so happy that these little babies are with God and not with the neglectful parents.

mary July 29, 2008, 11:51 AM

There are definetely a few of the cases that seem accidental. Sleep-deprived parents, change in routine, return to work and having to worry about daycare. I didn’t have to worry about returning to work and what not, but I can see where that can happen. The other cases, however, such as the one who went swimming and didn’t notice the other child for over an hour, that’s just plain crazy!!!! That’s just bad parenting!!! How could you not notice your child for an hour? When my son plays on his bike outside [he’s 8], I check on him every 10 mins. I never let my kids go swimming alone, and if I take them to the beach [I won’t go alone only with a friend] or to the water park, [same there] I’m always keeping an eye on them and only them. I don’t understand how people can forget kids like that. Or perhaps the situation where they were playing outside, 30 mins is a long time to not see what they are doing, especially that young they should have NEVER been outside alone!!! What was the mom thinking?

The one where she was getting her nails done and “thought” someone else was watching him, how does that work? If she dropped the child off, wouldn’t hte friend have noticed the child wasn’t there? and notified her? If you were supposed to watch someones child and for some reason the child disappeared, wouldn’t you do something??

Misty July 29, 2008, 12:23 PM

I’m sorry but the woman that said
“these accidents have little do with how good a parent is, and everything to do with how a memory functions…” is crazy! If you leave your child in a car for 3+ hours and have no idea where they are…You are a shi#y parent!!! I understand not everyone has a great memory, but give me a break. Can any of you imagine not seeing your child for 5-12 hours and just saying “oh, well, he’ll find me when he’s hungry” This country is becoming so pathtic. Everyone is always wanting to place the blame on a disease, addiction, childhood or find some way to be the “victim”! Take responsibility for your actions!

Anonymous July 29, 2008, 12:30 PM

I just don’t get how this can happen, when I look in my rear view mirror, I see my kids, even when away from them, I think about them. At home they’re always making noise, so I know where they are. This is so sad.

azfyrfyter July 29, 2008, 1:24 PM

Walk Around

How can you forget your child is in the car? Easy. In most families, both parents work, the childcare is shared or done by a third party and we take turns picking up the kids. We are way too busy, way to involved and way too distracted, a recipe for disaster. When we exit our vehicles, we have to remember to put up the sun shade, turn off the electronics, grab our briefcase, purse, cell phone, our 64 ounce drink, work from the office and try and close the door with your hip and…oh yeah, the baby, the diaper bag, the toys…you get the idea.

Let’s do a “Walk Around”, borrowed from the Australian Aborigines custom of “walk about”; it is a much shorter but just as insightful “walk around” of your vehicle. Before you leave or enter your car you should do a walk around every time. Every time. The walk around would involve leaving all the “stuff” right where it is, unlock the doors and before you enter or exit the vehicle, walk around it (if the windows are tinted open each door). Here is what you can look for on your walk around…

1. Who is in the car? Oh, yeah, the baby, the dog, yesterday’s goldfish from the pet store, how did the cat get in here? Remove all the living things.
2. What is in the car? Did all the groceries get in the house? Is that a bottle of milk on the floor (the baby has been on solid food for 2 months). Expanding bottles of soda? Crayons on the rear deck of the back seat? A diaper bag…oh, yeah the baby.
3. The condition of the car. Tires all appear to be properly inflated, no new scratches on the doors, trunk and hood are closed…what is that green liquid under the front of the car? I didn’t know my license tags were expired. Write down the license of the wreck parked next to you.

Always do your walk around…before you leave, going into the convenience store, arriving at work, coming home, grocery shopping, on vacation,always do the walk around. And, never, ever leave a child alone in a vehicle, not even for a few seconds.

Anonymous July 29, 2008, 1:28 PM

the woman from the nail salon dropped her kids off with a friend…right before she left, the kid snuck back in the car without her knowing and was hiding in the back. The friend thought the kid had just gone with the mom. Poor communication can kill.

Anonymous July 29, 2008, 5:10 PM

how horrible!!!!!

Ku July 30, 2008, 5:17 AM

With every story I read. All I think about is my own son. My mind is so visual and I wish to god it wasn’t otherwise I wouldn’t be sick and in tears right now.

I know people go through sleeplessness issues when they have newborns and younger babies but… it’s a living person. A person you created. My first priority is that person.

I am not trying to sound harsh or not understanding but I cannot honestly believe all of these people just simple didn’t know or lost their babies/children. I cannot. 16 is 16 too many.

My head just can’t get wrapped around something so horrible. I know the parents are grieving and they should feel like shit. Seriously. We all would.

The daycare losing a child is simply even MORE unacceptable to me. It is their JOB solely to know where ALL the children are.

Then again… isn’t that our job too? I think we get the greatest reward of all.

mother of 2 July 30, 2008, 8:46 AM

I remember hearing about the 2 sister’s in NC that died after playing out side with there other 4 year sibbling and getting trapped in a car. These are very sad cases. And the for the person that said that these cases usely happen when there is a change of routine. Yes I understand that but in some of the stories the parents or who ever forgot about the baby for hours. I think about my kids and worry about my kids more then I think about any thing else. Why would you forget where you left your child that day????? Peolple need to START PUTTING THERE KIDS ON THE TOP OF THERE LIST OF THINGS TO TAKE CARE OF OR DO. Yes anything can happen to my kids but I am here to make sure it doesn’t if that means calling who ever has my kids 20 times in a 8 hour period. then maybe they want for get they have a child there.

vickie July 30, 2008, 8:55 AM

When my granddaughter was 5 she was bitten by a snake in our front yard my daughter and i raced to the hospital with her my son-in-law came later . My 2 year old granddaughter was left a home forgotten by my son-in-law luckly my husband was at home this was extreme cicrumstance. forgetting a child in a car is NOT. when my son-in-law remember what he had done even though the child had never been left alone he freaked out for over and hour. PARENTS SHOULD NEVER FORGET THERE CHILD IN A CAR LET THEM STAY IN IT HOW DO YOU FORGET YOUR CHILD>

Joan July 30, 2008, 9:23 AM

Parents are too busy multi-tasking on cell phones and worrying about their own schedules. I dropped both of my grandsons off at babysitters and preschools for years and never once forgot them. Don’t entrust the care of the youngest child to the older siblings. It is the parent’s responsibility to ensure the safety of all the children. Parents need to slow down and pay attention to the important things in life—the safety of their young children. If you are taking care of so many children, take a head count!

sheryl July 30, 2008, 9:31 AM

Without even thinking, I turn off the car, get out, go to the back and take my child out. Then I get my purse. She is the first and last thought of my day. I could never forget her.


Ann July 30, 2008, 9:52 AM

“A change in routine” and “Sleep deprived” are not acceptable excuses all of these parents need to be prosecuted to the full extent! Has anyone questioned that a baby and especially a special needs child need constant care when they are reading 7 or more hours. What do these parents do during those 7 hours? Doesn’t it occur to them that a baby needs to be fed and diapered? What about crying? I am sorry, but there is NO good excuse for leaving a child unattended. And, I don’t feel that being a doctor or principal has anything to do with neglect and murder. Anyone can be smart and just plain evil! I really hope that the legislation does get passed to have back seat sensors because then these neglectful bastards can’t have the excuse they have been hiding behind!

They murdered their children and they need to be held accountable!

sara July 30, 2008, 10:00 AM

There is no excuse for leaving children in your car… ever! And not wondering where one of them is? Why would you have so many children if you can’t keep track of them? Why is it so hard to do a quick visual every time you get somewhere to make sure no one is left behind? Better safe than sorry!! This is SO unacceptable!!! People need to slow down and collect themselves and remember their priorities… and when you have children they are priority #1!!!

amy July 30, 2008, 10:33 AM

There is NO excuse.. sleep deprived, not your kids, you don’t normally take them to daycare/school, whatever lame excuses have been thrown out.. it’s your child! You SHOULD NEVER forget about your child! And how do you not notice for an entire hour that your child was out in the car.. wouldn’t you notice that all of your other children are accounted for..except the youngest, who should need you more than anyone? Here is a suggestion: ask your spouse! “Did you get Bobby out of the car?” “No, I thought you did.” “Oh, ok I’ll go get him.” …What was that, like 2 seconds?


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