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Child forgotten in carseat dies: Could it happen to any parent?

I am heartbroken for the family of the 22-month-old who has died after allegedly being accidentally left in the car by his father for seven hours. The father has been charged with murder and cruelty to children in the first degree, according to Cobb County police.

Based on reports from the scene in the parking lot, the father was just devastated and tried to resuscitate the child when he realized what he had done.

Here is the description of the scene from the AJC’s story:

“By the time a father realized he had left his toddler strapped in a carseat inside a steaming SUV all day Wednesday, it was too late. The 22-month-old was dead.

That father’s horrific realization turned into a frantic race to revive the child in the parking lot of a busy Cobb County shopping center Wednesday afternoon. The distraught man, whose name was not released, had to be handcuffed by arriving officers as witnesses and then paramedics administered CPR, according to Cobb County police.

“What have I done? What have I done?” witnesses heard the man scream. “I’ve killed our child.”

The toddler was supposed to have been dropped off at daycare Wednesday morning, sometime between 8:30 and 9, according to Sgt. Dana Pierce with Cobb police. Instead, the child was left in the backseat of a Hyundai Tucson, and the father went to work, Pierce said. The father told police he somehow forgot his child was in the backseat of the four-door SUV, but police released no explanation for how the toddler was overlooked. The child, whose name and gender were not released, was pronounced dead at the scene by the Cobb County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Wednesday’s death is the second in two days involving children left in cars, coming one day after a 9-month-old Florida girl died after being left in her father’s pickup truck, according to reports. The child in Cobb County is believed to be the 14th to die from heatstroke inside a vehicle this year in the United States, according to KidsAndCars.org, which tracks fatalities involving children and vehicles. Last year, 43 children died after being left in vehicles, according to the Department of Earth and Climate Sciences at San Francisco State University.

High temperatures Wednesday reached the low 90s, according to Channel 2 Action News meteorologist Brad Nitz. Within 10 minutes of being inside a closed vehicle, temperatures inside can rise an average of 19 degrees, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Shortly after 4 p.m., the man was leaving an office in the Cumberland Mall area when he realized his child was in medical distress, according to police. From U.S. 41, the man turned on to Akers Mill Road and into the Akers Mill Square shopping center, witnesses said.

Behind a strip row of small restaurants, the man screamed for help and called 911.

“Apparently he forgot the child was in the carseat,” Pierce said at the scene. “When the father discovered the 22-month-old in the backseat, he immediately got out of the car.”

Witnesses rushed to the SUV and began administering CPR, seconds before both police officers and firefighters arrived at the scene. Several officers were already patrolling the area at the time, Pierce said. One witness, Dale Hamilton, said he initially thought the child was choking, but quickly learned otherwise.

“He pulled him out, laid him on the ground, and tried to resuscitate him,” Hamilton said.

 

Here’s the thing: I don’t think it takes a malicious person or even a stupid person to leave your child in a hot car. (Although I am sure there is some of that too.) I think it takes an absent-minded or busy parent who is possibly not doing their normal routine and they simply forget the child is in the car. I can see how this could happen especially with a rear-facing car seat where you don’t see their little face in your rear-view mirror or in a very large vehicle.

I truly believe this could happen to any parent.

I was talking to a father recently at a pool party whose wife had to drive him back downtown to get his car. He had forgotten that he drove into work that day because he needed allergy shots. He normally takes the bus into work and took the bus home that day. He arrived at the commuter parking lot and couldn’t find his car. At first he thought it was stolen but then he remembered, he had driven it to work.

I know this is not the same as leaving your child in the car but the point is here is a smart dad who has a routine. He went off his routine and totally forgot where he left his car. That’s a pretty big thing to forget.

I told the dad that I set alarms all day long on phone to remind me about things such as picking up my kids at school. The dad said I don’t want my phone to be smarter than I am. I said I am counting on my phone to be smarter than I am.

So the question is how do we prevent this from happening?

Is there a check sheet or routine that we should go through every single day to make sure we don’t forget our kids in the car?

Should you set your briefcase in the backseat so you have to get it from the back when you go into work?

Should you set your cell phone in the backseat so you will remember to look back there?

Should there be something attached to a rear-facing car seat that shoots up or into the front seat that indicates “child still in seat”!

Should there be some sort of weight sensor connected to a phone app that alerts you if still weight in the seat?

What is your morning routine so you don’t forget your child in the seat?

(Come back tomorrow for Part 2 — Is it ever OK to leave a child in a car? I have a great story to share from a mother who was arrested for leaving her child to run into a store.)


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