Third Texas Child Dies After Being Left Alone In Hot Vehicle
26 vehicular heatstroke death in the nation this year.
A 3-year-old Houston boy became the third child in Texas to die after being left in a hot vehicle this year.
The Houston Chronicle reports the child was left in the back of a daycare bus by a driver and chaperone following a field trip. The bus arrived at 3 p.m. and the child was not discovered until around 6:30 p.m. when his father arrived to pick him up.
Deputies on the scene believed the boy may have fallen asleep during the 12-minute drive from the park back to the daycare and he did not wake up as more than the 20 other kids were taken inside.
The temperature inside the bus was recorded at 113 degrees, but that reading was taken after rescuers opened the doors.
Harris County Precinct 1 Constable Alan Rosen said the bus driver and chaperone could face criminal charges, but that would ultimately be up to the Houston Police Department detectives and prosecutors with the county’s District Attorney’s Office.
“This was really just gross negligence,” Rosen said. “As a result, a child lost his life.”
The child was the twenty-sixth pediatric vehicular heatstroke death in the nation this year, according to noheatstroke.org. There have been 769 child vehicular deaths in the U.S. since 1998.
Texas leads the nation in children dying from pediatric vehicular heatstroke with 17 deaths in the past 20 years.
“Every time we hear of a child dying in a hot car, it’s heartbreaking for all of us,” said Sharon Evans, Trauma Injury Prevention coordinator at Cook Children’s. “It’s especially devastating because these deaths are preventable."
A child dies from heatstroke about once every 10 days from being unattended in a hot vehicle. Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle fatality for kids 14 and younger. In more than half of these deaths, the caregiver forgot the child was in the car or the child climbed into an unlocked car to play and couldn't get themselves out.
Heatstroke, or hyperthermia, occurs when the body isn’t able to cool itself quickly enough and the body temperature rises to dangerous levels.
Young children are particularly at risk as their bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s. When a child’s internal temperature gets to 104 degrees, major organs begin to shut down. And when that child’s temperature reaches 107 degrees, the child can die.
Because of this, and because cars heat up so quickly – 19 degrees in 10 minutes – tragedies can happen faster than you think. Symptoms can quickly progress from flushed, dry skin and vomiting to seizures, organ failure and death.
“Heat is much more dangerous to children than it is to adults,” Dana Walraven, Community Health Outreach manager at Cook Children’s and Safe Kids Tarrant County Coordinator. “When left in a hot vehicle, a young child’s core body temperature may increase 3 to 5 times faster than that of an adult. This could cause permanent injury or death.”
Safe Kids recommend the “ACT” method to prevent tragedy to your child or to a child you see left in a car:
A: Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. And make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not in it so kids don’t get in on their own.
C: Create reminders by putting something in the back of your car next to your child such as a briefcase, a purse or a cell phone that is needed at your final destination. Another idea is to take off one of your shoes and place it in the backseat. This is especially important if you’re not following your normal routine.
T: Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations. One call could save a life.
Click to learn more about vehicle/car safety here.
Here are some important ideas to help prevent unintentional injury to your child:
- Dial 911 if you see an unattended child in a car. Sometimes, people don’t want to get involved or just assume the parents are on the way out. But as you read earlier, it doesn’t take long for a child to die in a hot car. If you see a child or children alone in a car without an adult, call 911 immediately.
- Never leave your child alone in a vehicle, even for 1 minute. Windows left slightly open will not affect rising temperatures in the car.
- Set safe habits: leave a cell phone, purse, briefcase, etc. in the back seat before driving, forcing you to always check the back seat and see a child is/is not back there. The CDC recommends keeping a stuffed animal in the car seat. When the child is buckled in, place the stuffed animal in the front with the driver.
- Program your cell phone and/or computer to remind you to drop off your child each day.
- Have a plan with your daycare provider to contact you within a few minutes of being late or absent. Let your daycare know that you want them to call you if you are late or you have not called in saying your child will not be in that day.
- Teach children not to play in any vehicle.
- Lock all car doors, even at home.
- If a child goes missing, always check the cars and trunks.
- When leaving your card, check to make sure everyone is out of the car. Don’t overlook any children who have fallen asleep in the car.