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Health News Florida

3rd FL Child Dies In Hot Car

Dr. Beth Walford, a pediatric surgeon at All Children's Hospital, discusses the effects of heatstroke in children at a St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue and Suncoast Safe Kids Coalition event in June 2014.
Dr. Beth Walford, a pediatric surgeon at All Children's Hospital, discusses the effects of heatstroke in children at a St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue and Suncoast Safe Kids Coalition event in June 2014.
Dr. Beth Walford, a pediatric surgeon at All Children's Hospital, discusses the effects of heatstroke in children at a St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue and Suncoast Safe Kids Coalition event in June 2014.
Credit Megan Milanese / WUSF
Dr. Beth Walford, a pediatric surgeon at All Children's Hospital, discusses the effects of heatstroke in children at a St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue and Suncoast Safe Kids Coalition event in June 2014.

Police in South Florida say an 11-month-old baby died after being left inside a sport utility vehicle parked outside an apartment near Fort Lauderdale.

It is the third Florida child to die after being left in a vehicle this year, according to KidsAndCars.org.  Nationwide, nine children have died from vehicular heatstroke deaths in 2015.

Lauderhill police spokesman Gregory Solowsky said the baby's parents and four other children were unloading groceries on Wednesday afternoon and forgot to get the baby out of the vehicle. He said about an hour later, they realized the baby wasn't in the house. They returned to the Ford Explorer and found the baby inside.

They called 911 and began CPR. But the child was unresponsive.

Solowsky said paramedics continued to administer CPR on the way to the hospital, but the child was declared dead Wednesday evening.

He said the parents are being cooperative with the investigation and that the entire family is extremely distraught.

A 2009 Washington Post magazine article, “Fatal Distraction,” detailed how caregivers are capable of making such a deadly mistake. 

Two decades ago, this was relatively rare. But in the early 1990s, car-safety experts declared that passenger-side front airbags could kill children, and they recommended that child seats be moved to the back of the car; then, for even more safety for the very young, that the baby seats be pivoted to face the rear. If few foresaw the tragic consequence of the lessened visibility of the child . . . well, who can blame them? What kind of person forgets a baby?

The wealthy do, it turns out. And the poor, and the middle class. Parents of all ages and ethnicities do it. Mothers are just as likely to do it as fathers. It happens to the chronically absent-minded and to the fanatically organized, to the college-educated and to the marginally literate. In the last 10 years, it has happened to a dentist. A postal clerk. A social worker. A police officer. An accountant. A soldier. A paralegal. An electrician. A Protestant clergyman. A rabbinical student. A nurse. A construction worker. An assistant principal. It happened to a mental health counselor, a college professor and a pizza chef. It happened to a pediatrician. It happened to a rocket scientist.

Last year it happened three times in one day, the worst day so far in the worst year so far in a phenomenon that gives no sign of abating.

The facts in each case differ a little, but always there is the terrible moment when the parent realizes what he or she has done, often through a phone call from a spouse or caregiver. This is followed by a frantic sprint to the car. What awaits there is the worst thing in the world.

Florida ranks as the second-highest state with the most child vehicular heatstroke deaths with a total of 91 fatalities since 1992. 

In June, an 18-month-old girl died after her mother inadvertently left her in the back seat of the car while she went inside to teach at a Panama City elementary school. In May, a 16-month-old north Florida girl died when her father left her in the car after forgetting to drop her off at day care in Columbia County.

Janette Fennell is the founder of KidsAndCars.org, and offers advice to caregivers to prevent this type of accident.

"Just put something in the backseat, like your handbag or your employee badge, your cell phone, your lunch, something that's going to cause you to open that back door every time you arrive at your destination," Fennell said. "And we call that 'Look Before You Lock.' It's so simple, it doesn't cost a penny, and it only takes about three seconds."

She said vehicles can heat up quickly to deadly temperatures.

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