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Heart breaking! What in the world were these parents thinking?

Posted by on May. 11, 2012 at 5:02 PM
  • 10 Replies

Two children die in hot cars as risky season begins

A Sugarland, Texas, family mourns the loss of a seven-month-old boy, after the father left the child in the car. KPRC's Nefertiti Jaquez reports.

It’s a tragic sign of spring: Two young children have died this month in Texas and Missouri after their parents accidentally left them all day in hot vehicles.

Although such deaths occur in nearly every month of the year, records show that warmer weather typically heralds a seasonal spike in fatalities from hyperthermia, or heat stroke, among children left in cars and trucks.

Worse, experts add, such calamities don’t have to happen.

“It’s a totally preventable occurrence,” said Kate Carr, president and chief executive of Safe Kids Worldwide, which recently launched a new campaign to raise awareness about the problem. “Our hearts go out to the parents and families of these children.”

In the most recent cases, a 7-month-old boy from the Sugar Land area of Houston died May 3 after the child’s father, Leland Jacobson, 41, left the baby for hours in the backseat of a pickup truck in 89-degree weather. Jacobson wasn't normally the parent who took his children to day care and became distracted after dropping off the older kids, police said.

On the same day, a 13-month-old boy from Lee’s Summit, Mo., died after his mother, a teacher, mistakenly believed she’d already left the child at day care that morning. Temperatures reached 83 degrees that afternoon.

“The investigation has revealed no signs of foul play and at this time it appears that the death was a tragic accident,” said Sgt. Chris Depue, spokesman for the Lee’s Summit Police Department.

That’s true of most cases in which children die after being left in hot vehicles. At least 529 such deaths have been recorded since 1998, including the two logged in the past week, according to figures from the Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University, which tracks reports.

On average, 38 children die each year in hot cars, reports show. The numbers typically begin to climb in May, with an average of three deaths per month. They spike in July and August, when nine deaths, on average, are recorded, the figures show.

Overall, more than half of the deaths -- 52 percent -- occur when a child is mistakenly left in a vehicle, typically by a parent or caregiver who is rushed or stressed, said Carr.

“That’s a story we’ve heard first-hand,” she said. “The baby falls asleep in the back and mom or dad gets distracted. You can get in the car headed to work and absolutely forget.”

More precisely, a distracted brain can get stuck on autopilot, allowing parents to believe they actually have left the child, said Janette E. Fennell, founder and president of KidsAndCars.org,which has been focused on the problem for a dozen years. Her agency has counted 620 child deaths from hyperthermia since 1990.

Frequently, the accidents occur when there’s a deviation from the normal routine. Dad is handling the drop-off instead of mom, or there’s been some other change in schedule.

"The parents are absolutely certain that their children are in a verysafe place," Fennell added. It's only later, at the end of the work day, for instance, that they realize what's happened. 

About 30 percent of the deaths occur when a child is playing in an unattended vehicle and becomes trapped inside -- or in the trunk, reports show. Another 17 percent of deaths occur when a child is intentionally left alone, for instance, when a parent went shopping.

Once inside, the babies and children face temperatures that soar quickly to lethal heights. It takes only 10 minutes for the temperature to jump 20 degrees; within 30 minutes, it can climb by 34 degrees, according to a vehicle heat study sponsored by General Motors, which helps fund Safe Kids Worldwide.

Under that scenario, even a mild day -- 70 degrees -- can quickly become deadly.

“Cracking the window doesn’t help,” Carr said. “If you’ve ever been in a hot car that’s parked on an asphalt parking lot, you know how quickly that car heats up, even if your windows are down.”

Child's body heats five times faster
Regardless of how or why a child is left behind, the effect is swift and devastating, said Dr. Leticia Ryan, researcher and clinician at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington D.C.

“The child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s,” she said. “Their internal systems are not fully developed.”

Kids don’t sweat as efficiently as adults and their bodies absorb heat faster. It can take as little as 15 minutes in an overheated vehicle for a child to begin to suffer life-threatening brain or kidney injuries. When body temperature reaches 104 degrees, internal organs begin to shut down. At 107 degrees, children die. 

“It’s the double whammy of being more vulnerable to the heat illness in a short amount of time,” said Ryan, a pediatric emergency medicine expert who has seen many young victims of heat stroke. “In most cases, they’re usually too young to get themselves out of the car seat or to alert people outside of the car to their predicament.”

Norman Collins Sr.

Three-month-old "Bishop" Collins died on May 29, 2011 after he was accidentally left in a car in a church parking lot in Clarksdale, Miss., on a 93-degree day. His grandfather, Norman Lee Van Collins Sr., has become an advocate for car safety.

Such deaths leave the families devastated, too. The shock, grief and guilt are overwhelming, said Norman Van Lee Collins Sr., whose 3-month-old grandson, Norman Van Lee Collins III, known as “Bishop,” died last May 29 a hot car in a Mississippi church parking lot.

The child was accidentally left behind as his family hurried into a church service. The child’s father was the minister of music, so he was retrieving his keyboard from the car. He asked another church member to get the baby and take him to the nursery. But the church member didn’t hear him.

“There was just this miscommunication,” the grandfather recalled sadly. “I lost my grandson.”

To compound the tragedy, when Norman Collins Jr. reported the accident to the police, he was arrested for negligent manslaughter.

Nineteen states have laws that address leaving a child unattended in a vehicle. Thirty-one states have no specific laws, according to San Francisco State reports. An Associated Press investigation in 2007 found that charges were filed in about half of cases in which children died of heat stroke in vehicles; more than 80 percent were convicted.

In Collins’ case, the grand jury didn’t choose to indict him. “I did not even explore why,” the senior Collins said. “I was just so glad they didn’t.”

The bereaved grandfather now speaks publicly about Bishop's death in order to warn other families about the danger.

Airbags put babies in backseat
In one of the ironies of vehicle safety, the number of hyperthermia deaths in cars has skyrocketed since the early 1990s, when the advent of airbags led to directives that young children be placed in the back seats of cars and in rear-facing car seats for infants.

That position makes it easier to overlook babies, even for the most conscientious parent, said Carr, who recalled nearly forgetting to drop her own 2-year-old at day care -- until the child spoke up.

“Thankfully, my daughter was not a small baby who fell asleep,” she said. “From my own personal place in my heart, I have a great deal of empathy for these parents.”

Safety advocates such as Fennell, of KidsAndCars.org, have lobbied for years for technical solutions to the problem of leaving babies behind. Some private firms have come up with various devices, monitors and other alerts that can be purchased online, but none is available off the shelf, Fennell said.

Better, she said, would be a required sensor that could alert drivers that someone is still in the vehicle when they’re locking the car.

“We feel this is a good strategy because we know that many people feel that this ‘could never happen to them’ and may not think they need to purchase aftermarket technology,” she added.

Meantime, KidsAndCars advises all parents to institute an “iron-clad” rule with day care providers to contact parents if a child has not arrived as scheduled.

Safe Kids also advises that parents put back-up systems in place to prevent tragedy: Set up a “peace of mind plan” in which it’s routine to call or text a partner or other caregivers so that everyone knows when a child has been dropped off.

Place a purse, briefcase, gym bag, cell phone or other object needed at the destination in the backseat with the child. Set an alarm on a cell phone or computer calendar as a reminder to drop a child at care.

Though the number of child deaths from hyperthermia in cars is small, the actual number of incidents in which kids are endangered is likely much larger.

In Palm Beach County, Fla., there were 500 near-misses last year in which kids were retrieved from cars before they were seriously hurt, Carr said. The actual number of close calls is unknown.

“Never leave a child alone, even for a minute,” she said.  “It can and it does and it might happen to you.”

CafeMom Tickers
by on May. 11, 2012 at 5:02 PM
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Replies (1-10):
bigmama423
by on May. 11, 2012 at 5:12 PM

They weren't thinking!! This is so sad! I have no idea how the hell these people say they forgot! How can you forget your kids?? It seems impossible to me, I have 4 kids and I have never forgotten any of them inside of a car or anywhere!

Utahmom84741
by on May. 11, 2012 at 5:37 PM

I know right! how can you possibly forget about one of your kids?

no signs of foul play ? REALLY!; cause maybe this is a new way for cazy people to off their littleones! 

It happens all the time and people are normaly found out but maybe this is just a way for these tards to get out of jail time!!!!!!!!!

Innocencedreams
by on May. 11, 2012 at 5:52 PM
Wow. Those poor children. I don't understand how you forget your child. I have two, and I've never forgotten either of them, anywhere.
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.Angelica.
by on May. 11, 2012 at 6:56 PM

maybe it's just me but i have never forgotten my kids in the car. I usually go to get them out on the rare occassion that i don't have them out of habit.

mlg9209
by on May. 11, 2012 at 8:51 PM
Ummm... How can you 'accidentally' leave your baby in a car for HOURS? Those ppl don't deserv to be parents
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sxymomma20
by on May. 11, 2012 at 11:09 PM

I understand I have mommy brain but I my kid goes where ever i go if were out  its always been that way since he was born.....my heart goes out for those kids....I just dont get how you forget your kids I understand keys money and other ect stuff

pugsrulethewrld
by on May. 11, 2012 at 11:27 PM
1 mom liked this
Reading these things makes be sick to my stomach. How the hell do you "accidentally" and "forget" your child is in the car? Even when my son isn't in the car with me I'm still constantly thinking about it. These "parents" are pathetic. These poor babies/kids.
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Utahmom84741
by on May. 11, 2012 at 11:28 PM

To everyone who has posted.     :) Thank you I read this article after reading one on someone who has had multiple cosleeping deaths and was not sorry in the least in all pictures I saw there was no remorse or griefon her face. I am not trying to say that all of them are on purpose BUT It makes me wonder if already bad people are getting worse ideas. Granted I was upset by this article that I posted. The reason I posted it was to raise peoples awareness on the subject. Granted I don't believe it will happen to me because I never leave my babies alone unsupervised. Then again I am sure the parents who honestly had this awful thing happen to their family by accident said the same thing. 

If you didn't get a chance to  read the whole artical please do there is a lot of information in it.

I hope with as pissed off as many of you have been by just reading the article it will be in the back of your mind.

Sooooo if by happenstance you see a baby or any living thing in a hot vehicle I hope this will shock some one into action. If you see it repot it so maybe some of us can make a difference

CALL THE COPS, FIRE DEPARTMENT OR WHOEVER ..............  We can simply pray that the numbers go down and know that we have done our part.

pugsrulethewrld
by on May. 11, 2012 at 11:29 PM
Ugh I've never thought of that. These are never looked at as murder just "accidents"

Quoting Utahmom84741:

I know right! how can you possibly forget about one of your kids?

no signs of foul play ? REALLY!; cause maybe this is a new way for cazy people to off their littleones! 

It happens all the time and people are normaly found out but maybe this is just a way for these tards to get out of jail time!!!!!!!!!

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Firenygirl180
by on May. 11, 2012 at 11:40 PM
the only situation I can really understand is when someone who isn't a parent or hasn't had young kids in a long time leaves a child in the car.
last summer my Aunt came to visit when my son was 1 month old. she was sitting in the backseat next to him and I drove. every time we stopped she would get out and close the door. i would then get my sonout of thecar.
i know i forgot my son was inthe car if we had been drivng for a while and he was asleep, but ihave never accidntally left him in the car.
Now if igo out without my son i am constantly double checking his car seat and i always have to remind myself that i didn't bring him with me.
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