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Warmer Weather Is Around The Corner: What You Should Know To Prevent Pediatric Vehicular Heatstroke (PVH)

A 27-year-old Las Vegas man was arrested and charged with child abuse or neglect, causing substantial bodily harm.

According to the defendant's girlfriend, they had a fight, and she asked the defendant to leave their apartment with their one-year-old baby. The defendant put the baby in the car, which he said was running with the air conditioner on, before he went back to the apartment, where he continued to argue with his girlfriend for 15 minutes, as he tried to persuade her to give him his phone.

After the girlfriend complied, he left but returned to ask if she could call his insurance company because he had locked his keys inside the car.

The woman called at 3:06 p.m. and spent 23 minutes on the line. She said her boyfriend told her to hang up when he disagreed with the price quoted to send someone, a service his car didn't qualify for.

At 3:29 p.m., the defendant flagged down police officers. By that time, his baby girl had been in the car for at least 42 minutes.

According to the police report, the toddler was trapped in a "high heat environment" but the defendant refused when one of the officers offered to call a locksmith, a tow truck, or to break the window.

He then borrowed the officer's phone to call his brother. After "several" minutes, the officers broke the window and pulled out the unconscious girl, who died at the scene. It wasn't clear how many minutes had passed before the defendant gave consent for his window to be broken.

When detectives spoke to the defendant's brother, he told them he received a call from his brother who told him that he (the defendant) had locked his baby in his car with the keys in the ignition. The brother quickly headed to the defendant's home and immediately wrapped his shirt around his hand and offered to punch out the window. Again, the defendant refused, said the air conditioner was on and told his brother not to break the window and instructed him (the brother), instead, to call their mother to have her insurance company send a locksmith, according to the arrest report.

The defendant said he did not have money to replace the window if it was broken.

Police said they believe the girl was inside the hot car for more than an hour. Her body had already gone into rigor mortis by the time they were able to take her out.

The defendant said the baby wasn't fastened and had been walking around the seats and eventually lay down on the floor, according to police. The defendant thought his daughter had fallen asleep. Ricardo Torres-Cortez "Dad refused to break window to save toddler locked in hot car, police say" https://lasvegassun.com/news/2020/oct/06/dad-refused-break-window-save-toddler-hot-car-lock/ (Oct. 06, 2020).

 

Commentary and Checklist

With warmer weather on the way soon, it is time now to make a plan to help prevent child car deaths.

In a study conducted by Jan Null, a Certified Consulting Meteorologist who has been tracking vehicular heatstroke deaths since 1998, he found in approximately 46 percent of the time when a child is forgotten, the caregiver meant to drop the child off at a daycare or preschool. He also found that almost 75 percent of children who are forgotten and die are under two-years-old.

The second leading cause of PVH, in about 25 percent of the cases, a child gets into an unattended vehicle.

Last year, 2020, the number of child hot car deaths was 24. There were 31 child hot car deaths in 2019 – the highest ever recorded in a year.

In the case of the child in the source article, the father was aware that he had locked his baby in his car but then refused to have his car windows broken. However, in the majority of hot car deaths, 54 percent occur because someone forgets a child in a car.

How can those who have or work with children prevent this from happening? Here are some tips from the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration):

  • When transporting a child, place a purse, briefcase, or cellphone next to the child's car seat so that you will always check the back seat before leaving the car.
  • Keep a stuffed animal in a child's car seat when it's empty. When you travel with the child, move the stuffed animal to the front seat to help you remind that the child is riding with you.
  • If you work with children, consider a policy that you call parents if a child does not arrive as scheduled.
  • When a vehicle is not in use, make sure to keep all car doors and trunk locked.
  • Never let children play in an unattended vehicle.
  • Make sure to keep car keys away from children's reach.
  • If a child is missing, quickly check all vehicles, including the trunk.
  • Never leave a child alone in a parked vehicle even if the windows are rolled down or the air conditioner is on. A child's body temperature can rise three to five times faster than an adult's body.
  • If you see a child alone in a vehicle, make sure the child is okay and responsive. If not, call 911 immediately.
  • If the child seems to be okay, try to locate the parents.
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