Police Issue Warning After Mysterious Hot Car Death of California Toddler

Every summer we hear the stories: another child has died tragically in a hot car death. Most often, it’s a devastating case of a parent forgetting the child is in the car, or God forbid leaving them there purposefully. But sometimes a hot car death can be more mysterious, as is the case with a two-year-old who passed away tragically last week in his family’s car.

According to Sacramento news KCRA-3, this child’s hot car death is not a clear-cut case of a parent forgetting a sleeping child in their car seat. The child was found in his family’s vehicle, but it was parked across the street from his house, and currently investigators have no idea how he got in the car or how long he was in it. The boy was unresponsive and not breathing when 911 was called shortly before 6 p.m. Saturday, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department said in a news release on Monday.

After he was found unresponsive, neighbors performed CPR, but were unable to revive him. He died at the hospital. The temperature had reached 98 degrees in Sacramento that day, and KidsandCars.org says on an 86-degree day, it only takes a car about 10 minutes to heat up to a deadly 105 degrees. This situation is especially dangerous for young children because, according to a report from the National Safety Council, children’s little bodies heat up much faster than adults do, and their internal organs begin to shut down after their body temperature reaches 104 degrees.

I don’t want to assume too much in this case, but based on the warning of Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Shaun Hampton, it sounds as if the car was left unlocked and the toddler simply wandered over to it and was able to open the door and climb in, but was not able to get back out. Hampton says,

“It’s really unfortunate. It’s a tragic incident and it’s very tragic for the family, the community and for the first responders that came there to try and help the child. It’s incumbent upon everyone if you do have children or if you have relatives with children to make sure that your vehicles are locked. When you leave them or when you do leave your vehicle that there’s no other occupants in your vehicles.”

A hot car death doesn’t always happen because a child is left there.

None of my kids have ever tried to get in my car when we weren’t going somewhere, so I honestly had not considered that this type of hot car death might happen. It’s crazy to think that something as simple as a locked car door could have saved this child’s life. Even the best of parents lose track of their children from time to time; we all know two-year-olds can be sneaky and fast when we have our backs turned for just a few seconds. I have no idea how this child escaped his parent or caregiver’s notice when he slipped out of the house, but I do believe it could happen to any parent.

So, if you live in a neighborhood where kids are running around free and playing outside your home this summer, please remember to ALWAYS lock your cars when you arrive home from work or any outing. Usually we think of locking our cars as a safety measure to protect our property from being damaged or stolen, but especially in warmer months, we must also think of locking them as a safety measure to protect our children or any children who might have access to our vehicles.

Hot car deaths, of course, aren’t the only way our children can be hurt by or in cars, but they are a tragic and wholly preventable cause. KidsandCars.org reports that, pending autopsy results, the Sacramento toddler’s death is the 23rd of a child in a hot car this year. The site also lists other causes of car deaths parents need to be aware of, including the hazard of power windows. I highly suggest that all parents check out this resource and do their best to to do a safety check on their vehicles.

Having a safe and happy summer starts with being aware of the dangers to our kids, and not thinking, “it could never happen to me.” Let’s do our best to put safety measures in place to avoid the worst.


Jenny Rapson
Jenny Rapson
Jenny is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor.

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