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Baby Dies in Hot Car

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A 4-month-old boy was pronounced dead yesterday evening after his father accidentally left him in a locked car all day. Here's 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.

A 4-month-old boy was pronounced dead at a hospital Monday evening after his father accidentally left him in a car at a California train station, said a spokesman for the transit system. He was supposed to drop the baby off at daycare on the way to the station, but somehow forgot. The baby's mother went to the station to look for him at 5:30 PM when she discovered he wasn't at the daycare.

Last summer, we did a roundup of children who had died in hot cars. It happens way more often than you'd think.

- August 21 - University professor Dr. Jodie Edwards, who has a doctorate in counseling, accidentally left her 11-month-old daughter in her car seat in the rear of her Honda Odyssey when she reported to work at about 8:30 AM. Baby Jenna was discovered by her mother when she left work at about 4:30 PM. When police responded to Edwards' 911 call, they found the little girl dead in the car seat. Hear the heart-breaking 911 call here.

- August 19 - A 4-year-old boy locked himself in the family car for up to four hours and died. The boy informed his mother he was going to visit his father, who was working in the workshop on the property that was approximately 100 yards away from the home. Police say that at some point after visiting with his father, the boy told his father he was going back to the house to see his mother. Both parents thought the other one was with him, but the boy had locked himself in the family car. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

- August 17 - Jan and Chris Starr (an assistant pastor) were returning to their home from church with their four children Sunday when they accidentally left their 15-month-old daughter asleep in the van for three hours.

- August 14 - 3-year-old Cameron Boone -- who died when he was left inside a pickup truck -- tried to save himself from the sweltering heat. Investigators said Boone got out of his car seat, found an extra key, and tried to put it in the ignition, to no avail. Cameron's mother was supposed to drop off her son at day care around 6 AM before heading to work at the hospital where she was an operating room technician -- but forgot. Detectives said the mother arrived at work at 6:30 AM and did not realize her son was in the truck until her shift was over at 3:30 PM -- but he was already dead. 

- August 13 - An unidentified 3-year-old boy died after he was left in a locked car for more than 10 hours. A family member was supposed to drop the child off at day care but forgot. She arrived at work at 7:30 AM, and did not discover her mistake until she pulled out at 5:45 PM and saw the boy's lifeless body still strapped in his car seat.

- 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 day care 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 day care van for six hours before she was discovered. State licensing officials later shut down that day care 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 day care 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 at day care 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 U.S. 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 to 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 backseat. 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 backseat.

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

3. Have an ironclad policy with your day-care 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 day-care provider would have called, tragedy could have been averted," says Fennell.

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

Comedians Frangela, writer Jackie Morgan Macdougall, and a then-pregnant Garcelle Beauvais Nilon got together to discuss this disturbing, recurring problem. Watch the video below to hear what they had to say.

play video moms discuss babies in hot cars

next: I've Lost 20 Pounds Since He Left Me!
103 comments so far | Post a comment now
Wendi June 9, 2009, 3:37 PM

This is just unacceptable. People need to pay more attention to their children. There is no reason that this should be happening.

Charles June 9, 2009, 3:38 PM

My children are the number 1 priority in my life. I could not forget them no matter what is going on in my day. “Hurried” parents who forget their children are just not putting their children’s lives first. I have no sympathy for them, only for the little babies who died torturous deaths at the hands of their neglectful parents.

Anonymous June 9, 2009, 3:54 PM

I agree with Wendi and Charles. Unacceptable. You can remember your purse or lunch but forget your kid?

anonymous June 9, 2009, 4:26 PM

Once when I was a new mom, I was driving along and forgot for a while that my daughter, in a rear-facing seat, was sleeping in the car. I remembered long before I stopped the car, but it scared me that I had forgotten her presence for even a small portion of my trip. My daughter is 6 now, and while she’s still in the backseat, I don’t think this is as big of a concern (plus she can let herself out of the car nowadays, worse case scenario.) And let me clarify: she always was, still is, and always will be first in my life. I love her more than anything and would die myself if anything happened to her. I was just tired and stressed back then, on that day, and so into my groove of driving that I just didn’t think of her for a while. So I’m not judgmental in these cases, because there but for the grace of God go I.

Mom2two June 9, 2009, 4:38 PM

Sadly, it seems that a lot of these tragedies occur when parents forget to drop their child off at daycare. Why don’t daycares call parents when a child/infant doesn’t show up, the way a school would?

I never believed that this could happen to anyone as an “accident” until a friend of mine took a quick trip into town to grab some groceries and forgot that she had her newborn with her (instead of being at home with her husband and other 3 children). This is a woman who always “has it together”. Thankfully, she was only in the grocery store for a brief period before returning to her car and the baby was still asleep and unharmed.

My heart goes out to the families that have lost children this way.

Katie June 9, 2009, 4:55 PM

These people have to live with their mistakes everyday. I can not imagine anything more horrible than knowing that my mistake cost a child their life. But I still can not understand how one can FORGET about their child for a whole day! When I am away from my kids, I am always thinking about what they are doing and where they are.

Natalie June 9, 2009, 5:47 PM

These stories break my heart. No, you wouldn’t think you’d ever “forget about your child” but sometimes everyone goes on autopilot. especially in times of stress, illness, or sleep deprivation. Also, I bet a lot of these incidences occur when dropping the child off is not a normal part of the parent’s commute. Just last month I had my little dog in her carrier in the back portion on my SUV, she had a vet appointment and I could not stick her in the backseat b/c there was no room that morning. I dropped the kids off, then came to work, got my coffee, sat down at my desk and began my day when i suddenly remebered my dog was in the car! It was going to be a 90 degree day and all of my windows were rolled up. She never would have survived. I know my dog is not my child, but I felt sick to my stomach and immediately thought of the stories like these I’ve heard about in the past. I’m glad this article included some suggestions on ways to remind yourself. I guess it does seem silly to have to remind yourself that your child might be in the car, but at least it would be a good idea for those days that dad, grandma, or whoever else is taking baby to daycare for you!

Anonymous June 9, 2009, 6:35 PM

any excuse is a good excuse i guess accident or not something should be done i would lock myself up just having o deal with the guilt would kill me

JB June 9, 2009, 8:14 PM

Shortly after my son was born in 2006, a story like this came out. I was terrified. I was only 22 and had quite a few things going on in my life. I made it a habit to look in the backseat everyday as I arrived at work, even if I was confident I had dropped him off. 3 years and another child later, I still do this, even though I am unemployed and they are usually with me wherever I go. Some habits are hard to break, but I am glad for it.

Queen Bee June 9, 2009, 8:32 PM

On occasion my husband has dropped our son off at grandma’s house since it is close to his work and I have an appointment for some reason. I ALWAYS call him to make sure our son got to grandma’s okay and was happy when he was dropped off. I like to “check in” with my husband when he does things that are out of his routine. Do these people not talk to each other during the day? I know I would have a hard time forgetting my kid was in the back seat. There have been plenty of times I have gone out on a date or on a short weekend trip alone with my husband and out of habit have turned around to “check” on our son. Oops, no kid he’s with grandma. I always feel dumb but when I hear stories like this I am thankful I’m a little nutty in the obsessive “checking” category.

RachelAZ June 9, 2009, 8:32 PM

Whenever I have my son in the car with my I make sure to have something of his in the front seat by my purse to remind me…like the diaper bag or a paci. But I’m so paranoid about it, I often check back there 2 times when I know he’s not even with me! hehe. I don’t think we can really judge these people. It seems like the unthinkable to just “forget” your child in the car but I know it is easier then we all think it is. I don’t think these parents meant to hurt their children…just like if you ever put your kid somewhere and they rolled off and bumped their head. Did you do it on purpose? No, but you shouldn’t have put the child in that situation to being with. But it’s not like you did it so your child would purposely hit their head!
It’s very sad all around!

Jake June 9, 2009, 10:43 PM

I’m a person that “found” a child in the backseat of a car. My family and I had spent a day out at the waterpark and stopped at a local chain restaurant for dinner. On the way back to our car, I happened to look in the window of a car and saw a toddler, in the back seat, sweating profusely.
I questioned everyone is that your car? Finally, called the police. Then started asking, again. Fortunately, the toddler is okay. One of the groups of people I asked contained the medical examiner, and chief of police.
The dad was out getting dinner; after he dropped his wife and baby, just out of the hospital, off at home. In court, he claimed he didn’t know you couldn’t leave a child alone in the car with the windows up. I think that is sadder, than “I forgot my child was there.”

littlepeapie June 10, 2009, 12:03 AM

I can’t imagine much more horrifying than this. It breaks my heart to read these stories. I know it’s against the rules, but I keep my rear view mirror on my child and use my side mirrors.

AnonMomma June 10, 2009, 1:36 AM

How can you forget your child in the car? I just don’t understand.

Carol June 10, 2009, 2:52 AM

I have ADD, and I am very forgetful. I have forgotten many a doctor’s appt, forgotten to take my son to have his picture taken at a portrait studio (and this was after remembering it several times during the day prior to the appt time), and forgotten to study for a college test until I pulled up at the school although I had talked about the test earlier and thought about how I needed to study. I have done this so often that I could not begin to count on fingers and toes the number of times, even worrying that someone could report me as negligent because I forget my son’s doctor’s appts. However, in all the years he rode in the backseat of my van, and all the times I went here and there, and the years when I would need to drop him at daycare before rushing on to a college class, I never forgot my child. Maybe it was because he was not one to sleep while riding. I have heard of this many times before, with an incident like this happening to a child whose dad left him in the SUV while he want into work, and it happened in my town while my son was a baby (and they tried to convict the man). The father said the mom put the child in the SUV while he was not in the vehicle. It was such a sad story! And I have read about people leaving their child’s infant seat (with the child in it) on top of the car and driving off, and I can not even imagine how one could forget these things, although I know it happens because these people are not trying to kill their children. One thing that may have helped me to never forget my child was that we always listened to kid’s music (Barney, Elmo, etc) when he was in the van. Maybe if parents made a habit of putting in a kid’s CD when they were with their child surely that would be a reminder that their child was on board.

Wolfster June 10, 2009, 6:21 AM

I can sympathize with sleep-deprived people forgettting something that was a change in routine. There are little alarms that go off if you leave your keys in the ignition or leave your lights on. Can’t they come up with a way to install one for car seats? All you’d need would be a sensor letting you know you’d left something weighing more than, say, 5 lbs on the seat. (Children under 5 lbs shouldn’t be carted around all day anyway.) I can look right past a reminder object once I’ve seen it a couple of times. But the little “dingdingding” that alerts me to my headlights gets my attention every time.

Midian June 10, 2009, 7:00 AM

My question is, how many children are left in vehicles throughout the year and no one knows about it because they did not die? You just do not forget your baby is in a car! You do not send your 4 year old 100 yards away to be with the other parent by himself, you go with him. I have 4 children, my youngest is 5, I can safely say I have never forgotten my children anywhere. I mean at some point you would have to remember you did not make that extra stop (no matter how inconvenient it is), to drop off your child!

anonymous June 10, 2009, 10:32 AM

I’m reading all the self-righteous, judgemental comments here and I feel like I have to tell my story here. Years ago (my daughter is now 15)this actually happened to me. I had four boys, and we finally got our girl. I was a stay-at-home mom, and these kids were and always have been my whole life—I’ve never worked…just raised kids. Anyway, it was a hectic day of doctor appts, ending at 6 pm with a music lesson at a local mall. I left two of the kids with my husband and we debated back and forth whether or not for me to take the baby (8 months) because she was going to need nursed at some point. After some debate, and of course running late, I took her and two of the boys with me to the music lesson. Her car seat was in the back of the van, rear-facing, and she went to sleep on the way. We got there, and all three of us hopped out and went to the 1/2 hour music lesson, totally forgetting she was with us. It was winter, and she was in a snowsuit and blanket, and there was no danger of death during that half-hour (thank GOD), but I have to tell you, I will never forget the horror of coming out to my car and finding the police and a bunch of people looking into my van. These people looked at me like I was the scum of the earth, which made it so much harder. I just totally had it fixed in my mind that we left her with dad, because we had debated it back and forth and were in a hurry. I will never forget it as long as I live, and I feel such gut-wrenching grief every time I hear one of thsee stories because I get how it can happen when there’s a million things going on. It’s a sad, sad, accident, and you always read how it happens to people that you would never think it could happen to. Be careful saying “how could they forget their child?” self-righteously—you might be one hectic, busy day of running 15 places from doing it yourself.

Mary June 10, 2009, 10:43 AM

From a July 13 posting: How do you ‘accidentally’ leave your baby in the TRUNK of your car? What was the child doing in the trunk to begin with? It is a sad commentary that people are so preoccupied with their lives that they forget about their children. Don’t these fathers, mothers and care providers realize how important a child in their custody is? One should make sure where a child is at ALL times. And this one lady who was preparing for her wedding…I can’t believe that having her nails and hair done was far more important than her child sitting in a hot car. People…WAKE UP and take proper care of your children…and KNOW…don’t suppose where your children or children in your care are at. They can’t fend for themselves when they’re so small. Take care of your kids or give them to someone who will.

prncssjzmyn June 10, 2009, 11:18 AM

I don’t understand how you can drive home and leave your kid in the car…Forgetting to go to daycare maybe. But by habit i have always looked in my backseat. I can’t imagine leaving your baby in the backseat of the car. Expespecially the guy who thought he could do it…someone should put him in the car with all the windows up for just a half hour in hot weather. Poor babies!

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