Authorities warn against leaving children inside hot cars after 1 death, 1 near-tragedy

Video from NBC-2

Child-advocacy officials are warning parents not to leave children alone in hot vehicles after a 1-year-old died over the weekend in Cape Coral, and an infant was rescued from inside a locked car in North Naples on Monday.

The 1-year-old died on Sunday after being accidentally left in a car, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families in Southwest Florida.

Then on Monday, a baby was rescued from a car in the parking lot of Walmart, 11225 U.S. 41 North, after a witness found the infant locked inside. According to a Collier County Sheriff’s Office report, the infant was crying and sweating profusely.

With temperatures reaching dangerous levels — low- to- mid-90s on Sunday and Monday — law enforcement agencies and child-advocacy groups are reminding parents and guardians about the dangers of leaving children alone in cars, even for a few minutes, and are asking the public to call for help if they find a child locked in a car.

After Sunday’s death, Cape Coral Police and DCF are conducting separate investigations. Anthony Sizemore, a Cape Coral police spokesman, said medical examiner results are still pending and charges have not been filed.

Officials have not released the names of the infant or the child’s parents.

In the North Naples case, a witness told deputies on Monday that she was walking by a green Mercury a little after 6 p.m., when she noticed the baby crying inside the car.

The car’s doors were locked and the windows were rolled up, reports said. Once on scene, deputies and North Naples firefighters forced their way into the car to remove the child for medical attention. The infant was described as “hot to touch,” according to report.

An announcement was made inside the Walmart for the owner of the car to come outside. Deputies said they made contact with Joseph A. Hubbard, 25, whose exact address was not released, who confirmed that the car and the infant were his.

Hubbard was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of child neglect in motor vehicle, excess of 15 minutes.

In summertime, temperatures in cars can rapidly climb as high as 140 degrees, even with windows cracked, said Erin Gillespie, a spokeswoman for DCF.

Children left in cars are particularly at risk for hyperthermia because their bodies cannot handle that rapid spike, she said.

“With the heat in Southwest Florida, even a couple minutes is too long for a child to be left in a car.”

In Florida, it is illegal to leave a child under 6 unattended in a vehicle for more than 15 minutes.

Gillespie said adults should completely avoid leaving children behind.

There are typically two scenarios that lead parents or guardians to leave children in cars, she said. Either the adult intentionally leaves the child with the intention of returning soon, or forgets the child is even in the car.

Last year, 1-year-old Payton McKinnon died in Fort Myers after her father, Reginald McKinnon, accidentally left her in the backseat of his hot car.

According to reports, Reginald McKinnon had picked Payton up from day care, put her in his back seat and returned to his job, forgetting his daughter was in the car. She was left alone for four hours, and was unresponsive when he returned.

Reginald McKinnon pleaded guilty to felony charges of child neglect, and was sentenced to 5 years probation and 20 hours of community service.

At least four children have died in Southwest Florida because they were left in hot cars since 2002, according to DCF reports. Florida has the second highest numbers of child hyperthermia deaths, trailing only Texas.

Staff writer Jenny Beeson contributed to this story.

___

Tips to prevent child deaths in a car

■ If you have a young child in a car seat, check the back seat every time you leave your car.

■ Ask your babysitters and day care staff to call you if your child is not dropped off on time.

■ Avoid being distracted by cell phone calls or text messages while driving.

■ Put something in the back seat of your car, like your purse or briefcase, that requires you to open the back before leaving the car.

■ Never intentionally leave a young child in a car, not even “for just a minute.”

■ Keep vehicles locked at all times, even in your driveway, so a child can’t climb in and lock themselves in accidentally.

■ If a child is missing, check nearby cars immediately.

■ Use debit or credit cards to pay for gas at the pump and drive-through services instead of going inside businesses when possible.

From the Florida Department of Children and Families.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features