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23 Children Have Died in Hot Cars So Far This Year

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So far this year, 23 children have lost their lives in hot cars. Eleven of them were accidentally left in the vehicles by their parents or caregivers, and 12 were playing in cars and got trapped. Here are their stories.

kid sleeping in car seat

March 8Payton McKinnon, 17 months old, of Fort Myers, Fla.
Payton's father picked her up from daycare for a doctor's appointment early in the morning and returned to work at 11:09 AM, at which point he accidentally left Payton in the vehicle. When he left work shortly after 3 PM, he discovered his mistake. Source

April 18Sofia Wisher, 7 months old, of Antioch, Calif.
The family pulled up to their home late Saturday after doing laundry at a relative's home. Each parent thought the other would be taking Sofia inside, but neither did. The next day, Sofia's father drove to the gym, not knowing the infant was in her car seat, lifeless, the whole time. Source

April 23: Joseph Chatmon, 21 months old, of Forsyth, Ga.
Joseph's mom forgot to drop the toddler off at daycare and accidentally left him in his car seat all day while she was at work at an elementary school. He was not discovered until she left work late that afternoon. Source

April 29Brianna Jones, 7 months old, of Dallas, Tex.
A family friend was supposed to take Brianna to a daycare center after running errands, but forgot. Brianna was accidentally left in a hot car for more than four hours in the driveway of the friend's home. Source

May 5: Juan Ramirez, 3 years old, of Del Rio, Tex.
Juan snuck into the family car unnoticed. It was three hours from the time the boy was last seen alive to the time he was found inside the vehicle. Source

May 15Gavin Demarest, 2 years old, of Manchester, Tenn.
Gavin had been playing outside with other children, and when it began to rain, the other kids came inside. When Gavin's father noticed that Gavin was not with the other children, he began searching for him. Gavin was found buckled in his car seat in the unlocked family car. His father said his son was able to buckle the main buckle but was not strong enough to unbuckle it. Source

May 26Atrinity Hasbell, 2 years old, of Meeker, Okla.
A friend was supposed to drop the young girl off at daycare, but forgot. Atrinity was left in a hot car in the parking lot of the friend's workplace all day. Source

May 26Maddison Jones, 9 months old, of Columbus, Ohio
Maddison's 70-year-old great-grandmother forgot to bring the baby into the daycare where she volunteered. Maddison was left in the car for four hours. Source

May 27Alexander Morales, 18 months old, of Fort Worth, Tex.
Alexander's grandmother was supposed to be watching him as his parents slept (they both work late shifts). The grandmother reportedly left the house and went to the nearby residence of another family member after she put the baby down for a nap. He was later found inside a locked car parked in a neighbor's driveway. There was a child's stepstool next to the passenger door. Source

May 28Lesli Selena Cuevas-Villagomez, 2 years old, of Wyoming, Mich.
Lesli was playing outside when her 14-year-old sister lost track of her. She was later found in a hot car. Her family thinks the girl managed to climb into the vehicle and could not get out. Source

June 4Asante Arellano, 2 years old, of San Antonio, Tex.
Asante got into his family's parked car unnoticed; family members thought he was inside the home at around 3:00 PM and only realized he was missing at around 7 PM. Source

June 13William Dylan Mahaffey, 4 years old, of Russellville, Ala.
William was playing hide-and-seek with neighborhood children when he apparently climbed in the vehicle. Source

June 16Twins Allannah and Alliya Larry, 2 years old, of Portageville, Mo. 
The twins climbed into their grandmother's car outside of her apartment on their own while the grandmother was napping. The two girls had actually locked themselves inside a car before. Source

June 16Alexia Ortiz, 11 months old, of Kingsville, Tex. 
Alexia's mother had just returned home from picking up her children when she mistakenly left the baby in the family car for 45 minutes. Source

June 18Melody Bocanegra, 2 years old, of Longview, Tex.
Melody's dad accidentally left the girl in the backseat of the family car in the driveway for more than five hours. Her 13-year-old sibling discovered her lifeless body. Source

June 19Holland Judy, 5 months old, of Lexington, Ky.
The infant's mother, a single mom with three other children, accidentally left the baby in the car in the driveway of the family's duplex. Source

June 19: James Marcus Jefferies, 3 years old, of Pinson, Tenn.
The boy's mother and her boyfriend searched for the child after the boyfriend came home from the store and saw that the door to the house was open and the child was missing. (The mother had been asleep inside the home while her boyfriend went to the store.) At about 4 PM, the child was found unresponsive in the car at his home. Source

June 21Hunter Iles, 2 years old, of Hineston, Ala.
Hunter was found dead in the front passenger seat of his family's car after playing with other children outside his home. Source

June 27Zipporah Johnson, 21 months old, of Phoenix, Ariz.
Zipporah's parents had gone to church with their six children and traveled in two vehicles, one of which was a minivan. The father accidentally forgot to bring Zipporah inside from the backseat of the minivan. Source

July 11Anthony Michael Hickey, 18 months old, of Rockport, Tex.
The family was visiting the child's great-grandmother when Anthony went missing. He was later found unresponsive in the family SUV. Source

July 13Jaden Carpenter, 3 years old, of Chandler, Ariz.
Jaden slipped out of the house and got into the car when his mom was studying. He was discovered dead less than thirty minutes later. Source

July 14 - Jahzel Pinon, 2 years old, of Albuquerque, N.Mex. 
Jahzel's mother accidentally left her behind in the car when she took her 4-year-old to an appointment. She said that she forgot the child was in the vehicle. Source

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. due to being trapped in hot cars.

As mentioned above, TWELVE children have died in 2010 after playing in vehicles. It's imperative to keep car doors locked at all times -- and to keep keys out of the reach of children. Often, boys go into cars to push buttons and play with the wheel like they see their parents do, says Fennell. "A lot of times, they get unlucky and the doors are locked," she told AZ Central. "Or the heat overtakes them and they pass out."

Eleven kids so far in 2010 were forgotten in vehicles. Of these cases, four children were forgotten by their mothers, three by their fathers, one by both mother and father, two by family friends and one by a great-grandmother.

How could someone 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," says Fennell. "For the most part, these are highly educated, extremely loving and doting parents."

Fennell 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," she says. "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, the forgotten children are under the age of 1 and are sitting 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 adds.

She says that the biggest mistake parents can make is thinking that this cannot happen to them. "That's what these parents probably thought, too," she says. 

Here, Fennell shares three ways to help prevent these deadly accidents:

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

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 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 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.

Our hearts go out to the families of the 23 children who've died.

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

next: Divorce Dialogues: 'My Only Regret Is That I Didn't Do It Sooner'
96 comments so far | Post a comment now
mom of 2 July 19, 2010, 10:42 AM

Okay, I couldn’t even finish reading all of these. It saddens me so! I’m guilty of leavin my children (daughter now 17 n son almost 8) in the car if its a quick run to pay for gas or at a quickie mart to say get milk..but to totaly forget, I can’t even wrap my head around it?? Rule of thumb for me if its longer then 3 minutes then its just lazy to not take your child with you. Even if they were napping and I didn’t want to wake them, it has to be done. I my self never wanted to take the risk of someone snatchin them up, never would I think of this many children dieing from being left in a hot car. I think some of the blame has to be put on the care giver at that time awful to say but we are the adults here. I’m sorry for their loss..I’m sure it will haunt them forever :(

Lissalou July 19, 2010, 12:07 PM

Every single caregiver that supposedly forgot their child in a hot car should be punished. Children are not your wallet or your keys, you don’t just forget about them. Some of the children that were trapped in the cars from playing in them,their parents should be held responsible too. How does a 3 year old go missing for 3 hours and no one notices or gets in the car to search for them? There should be stricter punishments for these parents, and to be honest I seriously doubt that these are all mistakes. As for leaving your small children/ infants in the car to run in the store real fast, is it really worth the risk? When someone chooses to become a parent then they choose to deal with the inconvenience of taking their children into stores. If you aren’t prepared to deal with that, then keep your legs closed.

SS July 19, 2010, 2:56 PM

It’s the attitude that “this can’t happen to me, those parents are irresponsible” that allows this sort of thing to continue to happen. As long as people insist it won’t happen to them it will continue to happen.

Most of these parents are not irresponsible or on drugs. They’re exhausted, sleep deprived, and had a major change in their schedule that caused them to forget that their child (who was most likely asleep and not making any sound) was in the car.

If your spouse normally takes your child to daycare but you have to do it one day and something happens to sidetrack you it would be very easy to forget that a sleeping child who’s making no noise is asleep in the back of your car. We are all fallible.

I don’t think punishing people for making mistakes makes any sense at all. Having to live with the knowledge that your child is dead because you messed up is punishment enough. If we did punish parents for doing this I really don’t think it would change the attitude most people have that it couldn’t happen to them. We’d just be locking up grief stricken parents.

aurhynn July 19, 2010, 6:10 PM

My husband forgot our daughter when she was a few months old while taking groceries in. He said he got the last of the stuff in and started putting stuff away, 2 minutes later he realized he had forgotten her. Total time, 5 minutes. She was still happily snoozing away, so luckily, no damage done. I was the one that normally carted her around, so it was something he wasn’t used to. After that, she was the first to be unloaded into the house and set somewhere safe in the living room in her carrier until the groceries were all in. And the stuffed animal/toy/diaper bag thing does work, plus, I had a habit of checking her face and pacifier to make sure she was breathing. Yeah … first baby, was a LITTLE neurotic about her dying for no reason. And I agree with SS, punishing these parents would be useless, I think they’re suffering enough as it is. The ones that are sneering and declaring “I would NEVER forget my child!!” I hope you never have to eat your words.

calimommi July 19, 2010, 9:07 PM

What a sad state of living ~ to be so preoccupied with the rat race of life that one’s own children are forgotten in a hectic routine.

momx4 July 20, 2010, 3:34 AM

I too am guilty of leaving my child in the car. I was feeling really bad all day(later diagnosed with pneumonia)and after work I picked up all 4 children from daycare. When I pulled into the garage all I could think about was getting in the house and sitting down. We got out and I closed and locked the garage. It was about 15 minutes before we realized that my 2yr old wasn’t in the house. I went and found him still strapped in his car seat and crying so hard that he couldn’t catch his breath. I have never felt so much guilt and I just wanted to hold him the rest of the evening no matter how sick I was feeling. After that, everyone would assist him in getting out of the car when we came home.

Beth July 20, 2010, 6:08 AM

After reading the initial intro I was sickened. After reading some of the posts of parents forgetting to get their child I was divided. We just had a case of a father who left his son in the car so he could go to the bar. I was mortified. I believe that even if you go in for bread you should take your child with. You NEVER know what is going to happen. However, I do not believe in punishing parents because they already are in a state of punishment.

Sandi July 20, 2010, 7:27 AM

This is so very sad. To lose a child for any reason must be a horrible thing to have to go through. I feel really bad for these parents/care givers. However, in the case of the seven months old child, how in the world did they go through the rest of the day (they returned in the afternoon from doing the laundry) and all night without realizing their mistake?

I remember when my daughter was seven months old she needed to be fed and changed quite a bit, and she cried for a bottle at least once. Didn’t they miss feeding and changing the baby or hearing the child cry? As a mother I would have said at least once, where’s the baby, did you check on her?

Sarah July 20, 2010, 7:59 AM

I was one of those parents who would say I would never do that. Well I ate those words. My sister and I both got out of the truck and thought that the other one got my 3 month out. I had my 2 year old and she had the bags. Thank God she wasn’t in there long. But she did give us a scare. It was maybe 15 min. Before we knew she was still in the car. To this day the kids go inside before the bags. I pray for those parents. Before this happened I knew I wouldn’t do it. But we are human. All we can do is pray and inform other parents. I am still living with the guilt of what I done. I can’t imagine what those parents are going through. Please pray for them and for their families.

Mel July 20, 2010, 8:11 AM

Now days most people are so busy, rushing here and there. Sad to say, but when you’re not caring for a child 24/7 it is easier to forget you have him/her with you.
When my kids were little they were almost always with me. My husband would laugh because I would look in the backseat to check on them when they were home with the sitter.

Nicole July 20, 2010, 8:33 AM

You have got to be kidding me! I don’t care if the parents or caregivers were educated doctors, lawyers or engineers! They are negligent, plain and simple!

Many of these children were BABIES! How do you lose track of a baby or a toddler for HOURS? I don’t live out in the country where people let their children run around unattended and “play with other children”, but obviously those people shouldn’t either!

I am writing this while I am extremely angry. I do not understand how a person can “forget their child is in the car” or misplace their child for hours! I just don’t get it!

Sonya July 20, 2010, 8:51 AM

Very sad. Never leave baby unattended n nothing will happen. It’s my rule. I still dt understand how can parents/ parent leave /forget his child in car?!?!?! Doesn’t go into my brains.

Bobbi July 20, 2010, 9:30 AM

I agree with the other mom’s who said, how do you forget your kids anywhere, in the car, at home,etc.We all went thru the overly tired, sleep deprived stage when they were young . That shouldn’t be used as an excuse. Even now i don’t leave my kids in the car and they are 12 and 7, more then old enough to stay in the car while i pay for gas or whatever.

Michelle S July 20, 2010, 10:21 AM

Definitely Negligence!!
I know that accidents happen. But when our jobs, life and relationship issues overwhelm our minds so much that we forget our most important job of parenting the blessings that have been given to us. Then it is Negligence. I am very sad for these parents and I won’t beat up on them. I imagine the loss and grief of their little ones is punishment alone.
As for these children who were playing. My question is where was their supervision? The law may say that a 14 year old is old enough…but they are not all responsible enough to watch little ones. One was sleeping, one thought the spouse brought child in, one was studying….Priorities were definitely out of whack with all of these…
I have four kids which I had within 6 years. I know how much of an inconvenience it can be to wake four tired young children/babies up to run into the store to get one thing.
One more thing, this is just my opinion….If you have to set a Teddy Bear in the front seat of the car to remember that your child is sitting in the back, then maybe, maybe you shouldn’t be a parent.

Vicki July 21, 2010, 6:35 AM

I can buy that you might forget to take a child to daycare if you never do it, but I’m sorry. How can two parents get home, think the other is getting the baby, and then neither notice all night that she is not there??? ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!! Does the baby eat? Does the baby get a new diaper? Does the baby crawl around? How can you not miss a baby or toddler all night?
Sorry. I know the loss is heartbreaking. I lost my son in a car accident. He was 22 years old but it is heartwrenching!
I’m sorry for all the losses, but some of them don’t make ANY sense.

Vicki July 21, 2010, 6:52 AM

I can buy that you might forget to take a child to daycare if you never do it, but I’m sorry. How can two parents get home, think the other is getting the baby, and then neither notice all night that she is not there??? ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!! Does the baby eat? Does the baby get a new diaper? Does the baby crawl around? How can you not miss a baby or toddler all night?
Sorry. I know the loss is heartbreaking. I lost my son in a car accident. He was 22 years old but it is heartwrenching!
I’m sorry for all the losses, but some of them don’t make ANY sense.

Carrie July 21, 2010, 9:34 AM

I was one of those parents that use to say how the heck can u forget your child in the car???? It happened to me while on vacation in Florida. After a Walmart run my 4 yr old son fell asleep in the car seat. I went into the trunk to get the packages. My husband made a mad dash for the bathroom. I didnt know that. I thought he had my son & he thought I had him. While I was unpacking my groceries my 6 yr old says mommy is anyone going to get my brother out of the car??? I ran to the car and thank god that it had only been a couple of minutes and it was the night time. This story could have gone in an ugly direction. My daughter may have saved her brothers life.
We must be very careful. It can happen to anyone.

Stacie July 21, 2010, 11:46 AM

I am due to have my first baby in September, so I’ve never been in a position to forget my child in the backseat or anywhere else. Like another person said, I couldn’t even finish reading all of the stories—it was just too sad. I think that I’ll remember this article whenever I get out of the car from now on—this as a good reminder for me and all prospective parents.

Stacey July 22, 2010, 10:41 AM

What??!?!? They went ALL NIGHT without realizing their 7 month old wasn’t anywhere around? Are you kidding me? Husband: “Wow, what a nice, quiet night at home”. Wife: “Yes, we haven’t had one of these in just about 7 months”. Husband: “7 months? For some reason that reminds me of something…oh well.” Wife: “Reminds me of something too, but I am too F-ing stupid to remember figure out what”.

alexis July 25, 2010, 10:45 AM

this is depressing, tragic, and sad. i read through the whole thing.
i can’t fathom how i would feel knowing my 10 month old son died in a car afraid, alone, and scared.
that being said:
LOCK YOUR CAR if you’re not in it. never, ever leave your car unlocked.
when you’re supposed to be watching a child, WATCH THE CHILD. the grandma who left the child while it was napping to walk down the street? she’s raised kids before, obviously. she should know better. i’m not sure i’d be able to forgive her, even if she were my mother.
and i’m sorry if you don’t agree with me, but these people did deserve to go to jail. it is a crime. and it is called negligence. especially the parents who left their child overnight in the car. there’s no reasonable explanation for that. none. also, you don’t nap while your kids are awake, and if you don’t hear your child for two minutes, then it’s time to check on the child. you hear that quietness, that usually means that they’re doing something that you don’t want them doing.
mainly though, i just don’t see how you can forget a child in a car. it must require hurriedness and tunnel vision. i can see my son’s carseat in my rear view mirror. and his stroller is in the trunk, and i put the groceries on the floor behind my seat, so every time i open the door, i see him. groceries NEVER go in the house before him. i don’t think i’d ever forget my boy.

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