2-year-old third child in NC to die after being left in hot car

Published 12:11 am Saturday, October 8, 2016

By Shavonne Walker

SALISBURY — A 2-year-old girl who died on the Hefner VA Medical Center campus Thursday was the third child in North Carolina to die after being left in a hot vehicle this year, law enforcement officials said.

Police said the mother, who worked at the medical center, had gone to work Thursday morning around 7:55 a.m., leaving the child in her carseat in the back seat. Someone discovered the girl at 4:37 p.m. Officials said the car was parked in the sun and the windows were rolled up.

A VA police officer broke a window to gain entry into the black Chevrolet passenger car. Officials said CPR was administered until Rowan EMS and fire personnel responded. The child was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police have not released names or said whether the mother could face charges. Police Capt. Shelia Lingle said investigators will consult with the district attorney’s office to determine how to proceed further.

Hefner VA Medical Center officials said they are heartbroken over the tragic death.

“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,” said VA Public Affairs Officer Marlous Black.

“We ask the community to please keep all of those impacted in your thoughts and prayers,” Black said.

Black said the VA is cooperating with the Salisbury Police as they continue to investigate.

“We are committed to helping our employees cope with this painful loss and our teams are standing by to offer any support they need,” she said.

The VA Police are also assisting with this investigation.

The temperature in a vehicle with the windows rolled up increases 19 degrees every 10 minutes, said Janice Williams, director of the Center for Injury Prevention, a division of Carolinas HealthCare System.

A misconception among many people is the internal temperature of a car versus the temperature outside. She said it heats up hotter than the air outside.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, on a 72-degree day, the interior of a parked car can climb to a deadly temperature in less than 30 minutes. Williams added that the temperature inside could increase to over 100 degrees.

“Children are small and have thinner skin. They succumb quicker to the heat,” she said.

When left in a hot car, a child’s major organs begin to shut down, Williams said.

The temperature can climb quickly making it difficult for a child to regulate his or her internal body temperature.

According to the weather service, the temperature at its highest Thursday was 74 degrees, making the temperature inside a car anywhere from 100 degrees to 124 degrees or more.

Nationwide, 37 children have died of heat stroke this year after they were left in hot vehicles.

Williams said 54 percent of children left in vehicles are forgotten by a caregiver, and 29 percent are playing in an unlocked vehicle and can’t get themselves out.

She said in most cases, the caregiver, be it a parent or grandparent, has had a change from a regular routine. Police have not said whether the mother in this case had a change in her routine.

To prevent heat stroke in vehicles, remember to A.C.T:

• Avoid heat stroke-related injury/death by always checking the back seat.

Create reminders, which can be a sticker on the driver’s side window or an item in the back seat like a purse, cell phone or wallet.

Take action by calling 911 if you see a child left unattended in a car.

Williams also recommends having the childcare facility call a parent or caregiver to ask whether the child will be attending that day.

“We encourage parents to tell the childcare facility they are busy, but they intend to come and would like a return call if they don’t show up,” Williams said.

She said Carolinas HealthCare System makes available stickers that can be placed on a window to remind parents to check their back seat for a child.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.