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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
Anonymous July 30, 2008, 10:35 AM

We have become so consumed by our daily stress from our jobs and careers which takes so much of our time and energy. Just for a moment we can forget about our babies, come on now. We must always remember why we work so hard in the first place.For our families, our babies, our loved ones. Let’s take extra care to keep what’s most important at the forefront of our memories. If we keep up a dialogue with the babies and todlers in the backseat we will remember that they are there. I always sing to and with my two year old and have him repeat his ABC’s after me. When he drifts off to sleep which is quite often i sing to him.

Ann July 30, 2008, 11:08 AM

Dear Fennell:

It appears that you truly believe that these parents did what they did “accidentally”. Who are you advocating for? It sounds like you are advocating for the Adults in these cases when you give excuses on their behalf. Wouldn’t it may be more appropriate to talk about consequeces of their behavior above and beyond the loss of their child? I think it would be benifical if Parents/Caregivers get the message that there are severe consequences for murdering their children. Maybe then Parents who make the effort to NOT make an effort will realize they are going to be going to jail for a very long time and that the law does NOT sympothize with them because it was an “accident”.

Advocate for Children and their Rights!
CASA

J July 30, 2008, 11:32 AM

I can’t believe that many parents are that nieve to forget they have a child in the car with them…they are the parents the protectors….I have 5 children and never forgot having any of them with me anywhere I went…there should be consequences…and the mom that went into the bar should be put away for that…and the mom that did that on her wedding day the same thing…horrible….these were innocent children that should have been safe in their parents care….

Liz July 30, 2008, 11:39 AM

So the police “bought” these stories? Sounds incredible. Hope that they are held responsible somehow.

Erin July 30, 2008, 11:45 AM

I think this whole thing is horrible, and it is one of my biggest fears in life. If I ever have my husband drop my son off at daycare, I make him call me to let me know he’s done it. Even though it makes my husband think that I don’t trust him. He’s one of those “that would never happen to us” people. Nine times out of ten, though, THOSE are the ones it happens to. Most of the time, it isn’t malicious neglect, though obviously that does happen sometimes. I hope to God that none of you people up there condemning all of these parents equally have to go through this. I just tend to think that while almost all of us DO put our children first, we are also all human and make mistakes or go on auto-pilot. I bet that most of the people this happened to have the same attitude as all of you and would have said the same things before it WAS them.

Becky July 30, 2008, 11:46 AM

How can any one of those people say they accidently left their child in the car. I think it really is sad that no one noticed a child missing. I think those people should have the same sad death as those babies. Lock the adults in the cars and see how long they last.

Karen July 30, 2008, 12:41 PM

Wow! How scary and how devastating for those families. I am an educated women, and not at all abusive. My baby even sleeps with me because I am a nursing mother. But it is so easy to become preoccupied with other things. So, I will take these tips to heart and put them into practice.

Ann July 30, 2008, 1:15 PM

Please blog manager allow my message to come through! It’s a super important message and it could save lives! Please!

Ann July 30, 2008, 1:20 PM

One last message…


1) Neglect is the LEADING cause of death of children in the USA.

2) The USA has a very high infant mortality rate compared to other nations with our wealth/prosperity.

3) Laws are NOT sufficient in protecting children

4) Responsible, loving, and caring People are desperately needed in the USA to advocate for Children’s Rights!

How? Volunteer as a Court Appointed Special Advocate and advocate, mentor parents, and oversee that each child who is a victim of abuse gets a strong voice behind them in their interest. Being a CASA costs NO money and it offers Free training! All you have to do is be available! Please, Please, Please go to nationalcasa dot org (the blogger won’t allow email addresses—so put in search bar the nationalcasa) and read it! If you are unable to become a volunteer there are other ways to help. Just being better informed, spreading the word to other parents so we all are better informed to see abuse:neglect and report it before the child dies. You can also offer support to neighbors, friends who you see are overwhelmed and need some time to rest by babysitting for a few hours. Or, mentoring young parents, so they know what a good parent looks like and how to be better parents. There are really endless ways to prevent the death of a child and I do believe, as I hope you do, that it is a community that raises a child. We need to speak up, get up and shout that THIS IS NOT OKAY! And, people who have children and who neglect them and abuse them are going to get the message too!

There is NO distinction between the mother who left her child to die in the car while she went into a bar and the parent who walked away from the car to go inside for 7 hours before noticing the child was missing. Please SEE this! If you dug deeper into each and every one of these cases you are going to find a pattern of neglect leading up to the death. These are not good people, period! Please see this…and please go to the website above. If you go there today you will see Dr. Phil talking about the CASA program.

Thank-you to everyone of you LOVING people who read my posts and Thank-YOU for speaking up for these dead children. Together we CAN make a difference in the future of our Nation’s children!!!!!

Sincerely,
Ann

Renee July 30, 2008, 2:40 PM

This is scarey..Didn’t realize there have been so many infant/toddler deaths that are related. I can’t imagine what these children went through. Did they pass out from the heat after a short time or was it long and painful? It sickens me even more to think of the toddlers crying for mommy or daddy and noone hearing them.

Then there’s the parents or grandparents who have to live the rest of their lives with knowing they were responsible for their own child’s death. God Bless them all.

Rikki July 30, 2008, 3:42 PM

It seems that all of these were purely accidental except for the July 8th incident where the mother went to drink…and the June 17th incident seems odd that going to a friends house you could accidentally leave the baby in the car. You would think the friend would ask where the baby was as soon as she showed up.
This is tragic and sickening no matter the cause. Kids and Cars has a great idea with the weight sensor….also gave good tips to help remind us to check the backseat.

debra July 30, 2008, 5:41 PM

This is total outrages. These poor babies needed someone who really loved them. a parent who put the babies first and not them self.

Phuckface Digitalis July 30, 2008, 6:29 PM

These are bad people. It’d be fine if they killed their own kids and that was that, but now we get to pay more for our cars to have weight sensors installed because they’re bad parents and bad people.

Bill Vincent July 30, 2008, 7:18 PM

I did this once. I caught myself after less than 5 minutes, (as was only about 60F outside) but it made me realize how easy it is, particularly when you’re already not sleeping much due to a baby in the house, and your routine gets messed up. The woman who went out bar-hopping is probably a huge exception.

Elizabeth Boone July 30, 2008, 8:41 PM

Parents are not like they use to be, Our Parents kept an eye on us at all times. They dedicated thier lives to keeping us safe and well cared for. I had 4 sons and believe me I kept my eye on them. They got away with some things but I made sure that when we went out we held hands. Parents do not hold thier childrens hands anymore. There was no way we left one in the car but we always was making sure the children were near.

vanetta larosa July 30, 2008, 10:00 PM

I am sorry, I usually don’t comment but I think it may be cathartic for me. I feel a deep pit of horror & sadness & could not even really read the details of these stories. I can’t!!!! How in God’s name can people be do f*** stupid to “forget” their kids in cars?? They remmeber to eat, drink..etc…A child is not a task to remember. All I can do is pray for these little souls that they are all at peace. I feel for the parents too & pray that they find forgiveness for themselves as I am sure they must beat themselves up daily. It is just awful all around. For the real mistakes made, with no thought of trying to get away with something, forgiveness is possible. But for all others who purposely left kids for their own selfish pleasure, it is murder, nothing less.

Lorie July 30, 2008, 10:35 PM

Has anyone considered pharmicutical drugs here? Have any of you ever taken Prozac or antidepressants? I am in the healthcare field and see soo many people checked out on just the basic levels from these precriptions…not everyone but many, add sleeplessness, stress, money problems….hummmmm. So sad to think it happens so often. Wow

Debbie Montgomery July 30, 2008, 11:42 PM

Hey come on, we have on star why can’t they figure a way that the person on the other side would be able to hear the baby inside crying or maybe some kind of movement some one can make some kind of an alarm that goes off like the airbag knows theres someone in the seat to turn on why can’t an alarm go off if something heavy is on the seat. O.k. all you inventers start inventing.

Junebug July 31, 2008, 3:03 AM

I can understand the tired part, but honestly… I dont understand how you would forget a baby in the car. Even if you did. Once you got in the house wouldn’t you wonder where the child was??? Or do these parents routinely ignore their child’s presence in the house.

Some of these deaths looked to be pure accidental, and i feel for the parents.

But do not try to rationalize the parents behavior when they pick up a child from day care then forget them when they get home. Doesn’t matter if you are a lawyer… being smart doesn’t automatically make for good parenting.

AnonMom July 31, 2008, 3:32 PM

I don’t agree with the article putting an emphasis on the daycare providers being responsible for contacting the parents if a child is not dropped off. To say that in some cases, if the daycare had only called a tragedy could have been averted is putting an extremely unfair burden on them.

The daycare is responsible for children once they are at the facility. To expect them to be responsible for children who are still in the care of their parents is absurd. I hope every daycare provider reading this understands that by agreeing to an “ironclad” policy, they are putting themselves at risk of liability if they fail to contact an irresponsible parent and something happens to the poor child.

I have never left my son in the car. I think about him all day. I still get up every few hours at night to check on him. It is unfathomable that I would “forget” him in the car for 2, 4, 10 hours. I cannot imagine how a parent could forget their child, and not check on them for an extended period of time. The woman in the article mentions how it’s “educated” people who have had this happen, but they sound to me more like workaholics and parents of trophy children.

It is passing the buck to expect the daycare or childcare provider to be responsible for checking on where a child is when they are with their parents. Your child is always your responsibility - even when you are not there with them. You don’t get to wash your hands of them for a few hours for work or “Me time”. Maybe if people got out of that mindset and started being diligent parents we would see a lot fewer preventable tragedies.


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