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Sixth hot car-related child death this year highlights ongoing risk

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(NEW YORK) — A 2-year-old boy was found dead Tuesday evening inside a hot car in Cobb County, Georgia, officials said Wednesday, marking the sixth hot car-related death in 2024.

According to the Cobb County Police Department, the child was found unresponsive in a parked vehicle at approximately 5:36 pm.

He was transported to Kennestone Hospital where he was pronounced dead, police said.

“This is one example of some things that can go wrong, but there are others,” Chief Stuart VanHoozer said during a news conference Wednesday. 

VanHoozer urged the public to “really really really be careful in this heat.”

According to a police news release, no charges have been filed at this time and there is no evidence that suggests the child was left inside the vehicle.

Police said they do not know how the child got into the car, or how long he remained inside.

On Monday, the San Antonio Police Department and Metro Health used dummies to demonstrate how truly hot the inside of a car can get, according to ABC affiliate KSAT. After just 15 minutes of the car being turned off, KSAT reported that temperatures inside the vehicle had already reached 110 degrees.

This police demonstration occurred in response to a Friday afternoon incident, in which three children were rescued by a Good Samaritan from a hot car in San Antonio, Texas.

The one-month-old, 2-year-old, and 4-year-old were trapped inside the car for about 50 minutes, police said.

“A few minutes in a hot car is a recipe for disaster,” Amber Rollins, Director of Kids and Car Safety, told ABC News. “Minutes can literally be the difference between life, death or severe brain damage for a child alone in a hot car.”

The National Weather Service confirmed that temperatures in San Antonio reached 99 degrees that day.

Police confirmed that the mother was present on the scene and “stated she went inside a store and did not realize how long she was gone.” She has been arrested on three counts of abandonment and endangering a child, according to law enforcement.

After the bystander called the police, the children were successfully extracted from the vehicle and transported to a local hospital with expectations for a full recovery.

More than 900 children have died in hot cars since 1998, the federal government reports.

There are 25 states with Good Samaritan laws that “protect citizens from liability if they break into a vehicle to rescue a person or pet,” according to Kids and Car Safety. Because the risk of death increases with every passing minute in a hot car, citizens can be encouraged to take action as soon as possible without fear of retribution.

Rollins acknowledged that these incidents are not always a result of neglect.

“Child hot car deaths and injuries are largely misunderstood by the general public and the majority of parents believe this would never happen to them,” Rollins said in a statement Wednesday.

Rollins spoke to ABC News about a dangerous situation that almost occurred with her son, despite her doing this work for 12 years and being a person frequently interviewed on how to avoid such incidents.

She explained how sleep deprivation combined with a change in routine created confusion and caused her to make a wrong turn.

“My son made a screeching sound in the backseat and then I realized he was with me, but I completely lost awareness of him,” she said. “These little changes that seem completely harmless and non-eventful can be a trigger if the right circumstances align.”

There have been six deaths from hot cars in 2024 so far, all reportedly children.

“Eighty-eight percent of [all hot car] victims are children aged three and under,” Rollins said. Children are especially at risk due to the fact that their “body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult.”

This news comes amid the July Fourth holiday, when child fatalities tend to spike, with an increased risk for vehicle backovers and turnovers.

According to Kids and Car Safety data, “July 4th was the deadliest holiday weekend in 2023 for children in terms of non-traffic fatalities.”

Rollins emphasized the need for parents to take every precaution necessary to protect their children. Not only does the holiday weekend present a threat, but the persistent high temperatures continue to leave children at risk, she said.

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