Tragic news has come out of Newport, New Hampshire, after a barefoot 2-year-old wearing nothing more than her nightgown was discovered dead outside of her home – just a few feet from the front door – early Monday morning.
It was just after seven in the morning when Newport police responded to several 911 phone calls regarding an unresponsive toddler who also wasn't breathing. The child – who was later identified by family members as Sofia Van Schoick – was believed to have wandered away from the home on her own but "was not able to regain entry," according to the authorities.
According to Police Chief James Burrough, the temperature taken at the time authorities arrived was recorded to be eight degrees below zero. He confirmed the child's cause of death to be "exposure to the elements and hypothermia which are consistent with the autopsy results."
According to Yahoo News, Burroughs did believe the toddler's death was an accident.
Lindsay – the grandfather – told reporters that the family is struggling to understand what happened. He added that his daughter, Courtney, was having a rough time coping with the loss of her child.
"She is doing terrible. She just lost one of her children."According to the Van Schoick, they had just moved into the apartment recently and they did not believe the toddler knew her way around their new home with ease as of yet.
As he tried to make sense of what happened, the grandfather also explained to reporters that the front door was easy to open as the family hadn't had a chance to add a deadbolt to the door.CBS Boston reports that Sofia's mother had already spoken to her new landlord about adding a deadbolt to the front door because of how easy it was to open.
While authorities do believe the tragedy was an accident, it remains under investigation by the police, the Sullivan County Attorney's Office, and the state Division for Children, Youth, and Families. According to Burroughs, how the child escaped from the home and whether proper safety measures to protect the child were in place will be among what is investigated.
"Certainly there are things parents can do to protect their children better and prevent people coming or going from your residence. Those safeguards that seem common and obvious to some are not always that way for others. Accidents happen where either you forget to put locks in or chains on your doors or dead bolts to prevent this from happening," the police chief continued to explain, per Yahoo News.
The family's neighbor, Shane Rowe, told WMUR he discovered the toddler around seven in the morning near the apartment's outside set of stars when he left his own apartment to start his vehicle. He recalled hoping what he saw was a doll before realizing it was actually a child.
Rowe also told the news outlet that his girlfriend woke up around 4 a.m. when she believed she heard a child crying. When the duo looked and "couldn't see anything" they ended up going back to sleep.Yahoo News reports the grandfather – who described the toddler as "very intelligent, precocious, very stubborn and adamant" – lost his son five years prior.
"She was a very special kid," the grandfather added.