A child in Salisbury, North Carolina, died on Thursday after being left in a hot car for nine hours, marking the third child to die in a hot vehicle in the state, in 2016 alone.
CBS Crimesider reports that the child’s mother, whose name hasn’t been disclosed yet, arrived to work at Salisbury VA center at 7:55 a.m., leaving her child in the backseat, strapped into her carseat. At around 4:47 p.m., someone passing by the car discovered the toddler, and noticed that a vehicle was parked in direct sunlight with the windows rolled up.
Shortly after, Salisbury police arrived at the VA center, off of Brenner Avenue, around 42 miles northeast of Charlotte. They said that they “forcibly entered a black Chevrolet passenger car and retrieved the child who was strapped in her car seat.” Police immediately began CPR on the child while waiting on EMS and the fire department, but she died on the scene.
Captain Shelia Lingle of the Salisbury Police Department stated that although the temperature was around 74 degrees, the inside of a car with its windows closed can reach up to 125 degrees. She also stated that investigators are discussing the incident with the district attorney’s office. So far, no one has been charged.
The Salisbury Post reports that VA Public Affairs Officer Marlous Black spoke on behalf of the Salisbury VA center, stating that staff members are heartbroken over the incident.
“We are a close-knit family here at the Salisbury VA Medical Center and we want to extend our deepest condolences to all those suffering from this loss. We ask the community to please keep all of those impacted in your thoughts and prayers…..We are committed to helping our employees cope with this painful loss and our teams are standing by to offer any support they need.”
Black indicated that the VA is cooperating with investigation. VA police officers are also assisting in the investigation.
Janice Williams, director of the Center for Injury Prevention, reiterated what Black said, in that the temperatures inside an enclosed car can escalate quickly. With the windows rolled up, the temperature inside a vehicle increases 19 degrees every 10 minutes, up to over 100 degrees. This means that within less than 30 minutes of being in the car during 74 degrees weather, the child likely faced life-threatening injuries.
Williams also added that children’s organ begin to shut down faster than adults in extreme heat. When the temperature begins to rise, a child’s internal body temperature has trouble regulating.
“Children are small and have thinner skin. They succumb quicker to the heat.”
Children and Hot Car Deaths At an All Time High
According to the Department of Meteorology & Climate Science at San Jose State University, there has already been a total of 37 heatstroke deaths of children left in vehicles in 2016 alone, in the U.S. This year’s deaths has already surpassed the total number of children car heatstroke deaths in 2015, which had 24 fatalities.
A total of 698 child hot car deaths occurred between 1998 and 2016, with Texas having 107 incidents, the highest amount of fatalities of all state. Florida followed Texas with a total of 77 deaths, followed by California, with 44 deaths. These figures are not adjusted for population.
Even with the increase in deaths, 30 states still have no laws against leaving children alone in cars. While 20 states have specific laws for how long a child can be left unattended, only three states (Louisiana, Maryland, and Nebraska) have outright banned leaving children in cars alone for any amount of time.
Parents and caregivers are urged to always check on their children, especially if they have a disruption in routine or a schedule change, which when a good majority of hot car deaths happen. Keep in mind, it only takes less than an hour of being in an enclosed car for life-threatening damage to occur.
[Featured Image by Splendens/iStock]