8 Children Die in August After Being Left in Hot Cars

PHOTO: Children left in the backseat of cars during the sweltering days of summer have become an all-too-familiar scene in the United States.
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Parents' leaving their kids in the backseat of cars during the sweltering days of summer has become an all-too-familiar scene in the United States.

Twenty-three children have died of hyperthermia in cars in 14 states this year and eight of the deaths occurred in the first week of August. Nearly 40 children die this way each year, according to Kids and Cars.

The latest death was Aug. 7 when, police say, Stephanie Gray, 38, forgot to drop off her five-month-old son, Joel, at a church day care in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Instead, Gray dropped off her 11-year-old at school and returned home, leaving Joel in the backseat of the minivan, according to ABC News affiliate KLTV.

When Gray arrived at day care around 2:30 p.m., she was told Joel was never dropped off, according to police. "She was informed that her son was not there," police representative Kris Mumford told KLTV. "She ran to her minivan, found her 5-month-old child inside the van and she carried her child into the day care. It's believed he died in the van from the heat."

Police said that no charges have been filed.

The temperature inside a car can increase 20 degrees in as little as 10 minutes, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. Children are especially at risk because they can't handle extreme heat the way adults can.

"Kids heat up three to five times faster than adults," said Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide.

On Aug. 11, a 1-year-old boy and his 2-week old sister had to be rescued from a hot parked car while their mother was shopping in Cudahy, Calif.

"I'm in the parking lot, there's two babies in the back seat of a Honda Civic," a concerned passer-by told 911. "There's nobody around and we've been standing here for five minutes."

The mother, 18-year-old Arely Amaya, arrived a short time later and was arrested for child endangerment. Police estimated that the children had been in the car for about 25 minutes, according to ABC News affiliate KABC. The temperature outside was 92 degrees and police estimated that the inside of the car was 110 degrees.

"The toddler, the infant was crying and based on that we knew that the children had to be removed from the car," Los Angeles Sheriff's Deputy Pedro Mejia said.

The children were taken to a local hospital.

Jeanne Cosgrove, the Sunrise Children's Hospital coordinator for the Safe Kids Coalition in Las Vegas, adds that kids are also more likely to be left behind when there is a change in routine and the other parent has responsibility for the child. "They go about their normal day not realizing the baby is still in the back seat," she said.

That's what happened to Kenneth Robinson in June. He told police he got distracted and drove straight to work instead of dropping off his 2-year-old son at day care. The toddler was strapped in the backseat as the temperature hit 100 degrees in the car in London, Ky. One of Robinson's co-workers noticed the boy more than two hours later and made a frantic call to police.

The boy survived, but Robinson was arrested and faces a felony charge of wanton endangerment. Technology is available to parents to make sure they never leave a child behind. There's a free app called "Baby Reminder," which allows parents to set alerts that you're driving with your child.

Then, there are more basic reminders such as always looking around your car before locking the doors, or use memory triggers like keeping a teddy bear in the front seat when your child is in the backseat.

"This doesn't have any kind of a profile where you can say rich or poor, young or old, smart or stupid," Carr of Safe Kids Worldwide said. "This can happen to anyone."

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