2-Year-Old Boy Dies After Father Leaves Him In Hot Car For Eight Hours

Troy Whitaker, a Florida father, was arrested Friday for the hot car death of his toddler son, Lawson. Whitaker, a 41-year-old firefighter with the Hillsborough County Fire Department, left his son in his pickup truck for eight hours, CNN News is reporting. Troy Whitaker has been charged with aggravated manslaughter.

Troy Whitaker had driven from his Palm Harbor residence, Friday morning with his 5-year-old daughter and 23-month-old son. He had dropped his daughter at Ozona Elementary School but forgot to drop his son at New Horizons, daycare center. Whitaker later told deputies he thought he had done it.

Whitaker had run errands all over town for over eight hours, including studying for a promotional test at the fire department, walking his dog and shopping while his toddler son remained strapped in the backseat of his Chevrolet truck.

Troy Whitaker only realized his son was in the backseat when he got back home and was taking groceries out of the front passenger seat. When he realized that his son was in backseat of the truck all the while, he dropped the groceries and rushed to administer CPR. When emergency officials arrived on the scene, Whitaker told them his son was blue and not breathing. Lawson was taken to a hospital where he was confirmed dead.

Sherriff Bob Gualtieri, speaking to reporters, said the boy was in the back of the truck from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and had run a temperature of over 108 degrees. Gualtieri said the father was visibly upset because it was an unintentional act, but warned that parents needed to do better, watching over their children.

“It’s not an intentional act. I’m not saying it is. What I’m saying is that you have got to be responsible for kids, and you can’t leave them in the car for eight hours and let their body temperature get to 108 degrees and they die…it’s obvious that he had been dead for awhile.”

According to a CNN report, an average of 37 children die yearly from the heatstroke they suffer after being left in vehicles. Since 1998, Florida has witnessed the second-highest number of hot car deaths, 72, only Texas has a higher number of 100 cases.

The National Safety Council says children heat up four times quicker than adults and so even a 70-degree Fahrenheit weather situation could pose a fatal threat to a child in minutes. Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide recommends that parents leave their purse or wallet in the backseat as a reminder that their child is in the car too.

“Put something in the back seat where a child seat is always located that you’re going to need at your final destination, something you know you’re going to look for, like your cell phone, your purse, a briefcase. This, in fact, can happen to anyone, and we’ve seen it happen to anyone.”

According to the National Safety council, the number of hot car deaths in 2016 is already 300 percent higher than last year. The group was optimistic that 2015’s hot car death rate, which is one of the lowest in recent times was a sign that people were more aware of the danger posed by leaving young children in scorching vehicles. Amy Artuso said she was shocked at the rising numbers this year.

“This year, it was quite a surprise to have that many deaths by this date. I guess we were optimistic about last year.”

Artuso noted that hot car tragedies often occurred when a parent or caregiver altered their routine, like a different parent taking on the day care duties, did not have too much sleep the previous day or had been exhausted by the early pressures of the week.

“It does seem to be a distraction issue. We don’t have anything scientific to back it up, but more deaths do seem to happen towards the end of the week.”

Whitaker was released from the county jail on Friday on a $50,000 bond.

[Photo by iStock]

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