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.
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.