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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.

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
meg24_83 August 2, 2008, 12:13 AM

I can’t even read past the third one. This made me cry. I don’t understand how anyone can “mistakenly NOT have their child in their arms!!” Thats just a sick excuse for not parenting. The longest I’ve EVER left my son in a car alone was 2 minutes MAX!!! WTF?!? These people need to have their tubes tied. Seriously. Or their license revoked!

Reality August 2, 2008, 1:33 AM

You know, I didn’t even read all of the comments, but this first page just amazes me - haven’t any of you perfect parents had those moments (ANYWHERE ANYTIME) where all of a sudden you think, “Where is ‘insert name here’.” And how many times have you been SO blessed that your child was right behind you, or standing over there, or somewhere else SAFE. I am a normal, intelligent, educated, stay at home mom who puts my family first, but I’ll be darned if I’m going to judge someone for forgetting their child.

Most of the parents of these children are absolutely devastated that they made a mistake that cost their children’s lives. Do not be so harsh or so proud as to think that you can’t make such a mistake either.

Cookie August 4, 2008, 2:26 PM

I am not offering an excuse. To a lot of people, it is inconceviable how a parent could just forget about their own child but i am a witness that it does happen. I was lucky that my child made a sound before i actually got to work and i turned around to take her back to her daycare, which i had passed about 5 minutes earlier, put i hate to even imagine what would have happened had she not said anything. I am not a neglectful mother. I take very good care of my child but the same way a person can forget and leave a purse with personal information behind, or they can leave a bag with items they have already paid for lying somewhere because they forgot, you can definately forget a child, especially when you get consumed in all of the tasks you have ahead of you in a particular day. All i am saying is always second check yourself. The advice that was offered in this article was very helpful and i will definately use it.

K August 4, 2008, 3:56 PM

I know of a lady that this happened to. She said she thought her neighbor took the child to daycare when she placed him and his bag in her car, but apparently there was miscommunication and the lady did not know she has the child and she just went to work and when she came home for lunch, the two ladies lunched together and it wasn’t until the baby’s Mom walked her neighbor back to her car and saw the diaper bag that she realized and they called 911 for help, but the baby had been left too long in the heat and it died. I have often wondered how they could have miscommunicated. Did the Mom only ‘think’ she asked her neighbor to take her child to the daycare, or did she ask, but the neighbor did not really hear her or even said yes, but it did not register??? So many questions. I have heard many cases of parents getting so overwhelmed or distracted that they can and do forget their child , so I do not think it is being a bad parent or caretaker. Nobody watches your child as well as you do, but you are also human and mistakes happen. The tips offered here are excellent and I also hope the legislation passes for the weight-sensors and for other measures like that, that could save lives. I recall the case in the news of the Dad that was a Dentist or Doctor and he forgot he had taken the child with him that day and that child also died from being left in a closed up car. I think another tip might be to leave windows cracked open always, as an extra precaution, so that if a child that had been sleeping, wakes and cries, at least there is hope that someone may hear something. But the main thing is to double-check and check again and to not trust the daycare centers with outings where children have been left in vans and busses when they returned from a field-trip. If you let your child go, CALL and check alot. I feel so bad for the families that this has happened to. I do not think they did this intentionally and I am sure they will suffer the pain forever, especially the responsible party/ies. God Bless and may car companies come up with some working and cost-effective measures SOON to help stop this type of tragedy!!!

Jackie August 5, 2008, 12:18 AM

I feel so sorry for these kids and their families. I can see how this could happen if the child falls asleep and the parent’s routine is changed. I think educating people about this issue is definitely a good thing.

That being said, I don’t think legislation requiring child weight sensors is the answer. For the 36 families a year this happens to, it is tragic, but 36 kids a year die in cars and millions of kids don’t. Is it really fair to make everyone pay for unnecessary sensors that are going to only help such a small percent of the population? You can’t legislate away every possible danger to children, and as far as dangers go, this one is really, really small. We need to concentrate our resources on ways to protect the majority of kids, not just a minute percentage.

annieo37 August 5, 2008, 9:14 AM

This is a result of our attention being split among cell phone calls, crazy drivers, mental shopping lists, work, home, and marriage, all in all, the constant chatter we have created in our heads at all times. The only solution to being this overwhelmed is to STOP and begin to recognize the present moment. Rather than thinking about our next meeting, or how late we are or who we can chat with in our cars, be PRESENT with our children, talk to them, interact, enjoy the time you have with them. The safety checks are necessary. Also, many of these incidents seemed to have happened when a child went back to a car to play. So, after checking and rechecking your car, lock it when its in the driveway. Even if you dont have children, lock your car so neighborhood kids cannot access it. Sad and tragic stories. We as humans have become totally distracted from what really matters.

Michelle August 5, 2008, 3:03 PM

It makes my stomach turn. I can understand about the kids sneaking in the car, mine do that on occasion, but I check on them every few minutes. I can understand about your routine being changed and going on autopilot. I have my 4 kids with me 24 hours it seems strange to forget one of them. I do not understand daycares not taking kids out of cars. I never was a fan of day care, but especially not after hearing this!

Loretta August 6, 2008, 3:08 AM

Reading this seriously breaks my heart. I have a 13, 10, 2, and a 1 month old and I can’t even imagine this happening to one of them. I admit that there has been times that I second guess myself and have to re-check the back seat thinking I have forgotten one of the little ones. This really freaks me out. I would die!

Sam August 6, 2008, 12:18 PM

It was so hard to read these stories. I don’t really comprehend forgetting your child for over an hour especially when they are under the age of 5? I mean even inside the house if you don’t hear them or see them they are most likely up to something. All the excuses and the “they are lawyers, doctors” etc doesn’t mean these parents shouldn’t be held responsible. So if someone is a drug addict, or goes drinking they should go to jail but the lawyer shouldn’t? What kind of justice is that, we’ll let you walk if you’re educated but let you rot in jail if you are not? You would think that the more educated person would be more careful.

I think people should take their kids out FIRST and then the groceries and their purse and their cell and their briefcase and everything else. These stories are very sad and I was quite angry reading them - believing these parents should go to jail - but I know that it can happen to anyone. Even so, if the day care employee should go to jail because they forgot about the child why is it different when a parent forgets? I don’t believe we should have different standards of punishment based on education and career.

There were some things I couldn’t quite comprehend/accept: how can you let children under five play unsupervised for long periods? What happens when you are putting the groceries away that you don’t say “where’s the baby?” When the parents of the special needs child fed and put their other kids to bed why didn’t they miss the child left in the car? How can you go hours without thinking about your child?

It is hard not to be judgmental when reading these terrible tragedies and I want to rise above it but it is hard. I know that IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE but it doesn’t make reading these stories any easier or trying to muster compassion for the parents easy either. I feel tremendously sad for the children who died and pray that their deaths were fast and with minimal suffering. God bless them.

Melissa W August 7, 2008, 7:04 AM

This is a HUGE wake up call for me!This is sooo sad. My son is 2 1/2 and he is always getting in and out of my grandparents car he gets in it pops the trunk gets out closes the trunk and keeps doing that;Sometimes he wants to spend the day with his grandparents instead of going with me to daycare (where I work). My grandparents have a fenced back yard so my son can be in the back but still in the fence, they now have a padlock on the gate to be safe so he cant get out when they turn their heads for a minute. Whenever i see him in the car I get him out and lock the door and remind them to lock the doors next time.I am going to have them read this so that they can understand how serious it is. I work at a daycare and i am going to have all my coworkers and my boss read this as well.

Jessica August 7, 2008, 9:41 AM

I dont understand how someone can remember their personal belongings and not their child? some people are not fit to be parents, im sorry. I dont care how busy or tired someone is forgetting your child is no excuse. BAD PARENTING

dixiegirl August 7, 2008, 1:09 PM

Yeah, I can understand that in some cases it was a tragic mistake. A sleeping infant and a sleep deprived mother for instance. Even still, I picture myself driving with my son in the car. I’m telling you I am constantly checking on him, every time I stop at a redlight for sure. Also, when he was an infant, he was so much on my mind the entire time we would be driving somewhere that I can’t imagine forgetting him. I don’t know. I think we get to a point when we are far too busy when children are the things parents are forgetting. This is so sad.

Cindy August 8, 2008, 6:51 AM

I think you all are being too harsh. Imagine the dad who never brings his child to daycare…. the one day he does, he’s out of sorts, rushing, and on auto-pilot. He drives to work in his ordinary fashion, gets out of the car, and goes into work. Now, imagine that he gets a phone call hours later - it’s his wife asking “why didn’t you bring the baby to daycare?” Now the panic begins. That father loves his child just as much as any parent does. We are human and make mistakes - even major ones. For anyone to judge a loving parent who will punish him or herself until the end of time is just terrible. I can’t imagine anyone being anything but sad for the people who this happens to. They have to live with this for the rest of their lives and will never forgive themselves. We have to be able to understand. (of course, the parents who are blatantly negligent are a totally different story)

P K August 11, 2008, 3:30 PM

Has any auto company ever considered making a mechanical window opener (It was used in older cars and is a handle which moves in cirle and opens the window) as a standard choice for the cars.
May be not the infants but a child who is 1 yr and older may be able to use it if they are not strapped inside the car.
12 out of 16 kids mentioned above were of an age where they can be taught how to use a mechanical roller to open the window.
Just a thought!

Anonymous August 11, 2008, 4:03 PM

Years ago I was on my way to work and totally forgot to drop my two year old son off at daycare. While on the highway, I realized that I didn’t drop him off, and then called my mother-in-law to meet me at work and take him to school. I am a loving mom and cherish my kids but with work and lack of sleep induced memory loss, I could see how good parents can have accidents. Luckily, I realized that I skipped the daycare dropoff and there were no consequences. It could have been tragic. The experience taught me to be even more cautious than I already was.

Kris August 11, 2008, 11:53 PM

OMG…people on this site are so freaking opinionated…and you ALL think you are right. I don’t think I like this site at all.

Anonymous August 13, 2008, 3:11 AM

Maybe They should have some kind of Child safety device that turns on the air conditiong when there is weight on the seat, That parents can turn on when They get in the car, I also agree That if I hadnt seen my child in a few minutes I would be looking for Him. These parents Must be very sleepy or something is not right

jeanette August 13, 2008, 9:55 AM

I can see how a grandfather who isn’t used to having a baby in his car while heading to work might forget he has the baby with him.
Most of the others seem like cases of irresponsibility.
But the family who didn’t notice a missing four year old who had special needs for 17 hours makes me wonder. I find it hard to believe not one of seven other children in the family didn’t say something. No way could one of my children have been out of sight for that long without someone asking where the child was. How can you not be aware of the absence of a special needs child for so long???
My opinion is the expert is full of prunes. Sometimes these tragedies are caused carelessness; other times, there might be more nefarious reasons. Not all parents are loving nurturers. (the bar mom stands out)

Vickie K. August 14, 2008, 1:48 PM

I bet they don’t forget their new outfits or new shoes! Forgetting your kid for even a minute can get them hurt. If you can’t keep up with your kids and your job/wedding plans/errands… then you ask for help!! You have bigger problems if your memory or sleep deprivation has gotten that bad!! And it is so wrong to expect the older kids to keep up with the younger ones. Change in routine? More of a reason not to forget!!! These are all cop outs and excuses and in my book there is no excuse. Children need you, need guidance, need protecting and if they can’t rely on their own parents then they don’t have a change in hell! Shame on these people… they should be punished to the full extent of the law and made to attend counseling for better parenting skills!

Molly August 14, 2008, 8:37 PM

This is excatly why I was afraid to let anyone watch my son, and still am and he is 2. People who are not used to having him, could easily forget they had him, I don’t trust anyone with my son, and if I have to leave him, I will call and check in often. Also I had to put him in daycare for about six months I made sure that he would never be put into a car, by the daycare, just incase they forgot he was in there while picking other kids up.

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