dies in SC’s first hot car death of 2019, Richland Co. coroner says
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - During a press conference on Friday, the Richland
County Coroner’s Office announced the death of a 4-year-old child in the
state’s first hyperthermia death of 2019.
Richland County Coroner
Gary Watts says Zion Akinrefon, of Maryland, was pronounced dead at a
Midlands hospital on Wednesday of complications of probable hyperthermia.
Deputies responded to a call on Wednesday after Zion was found
unresponsive at a home in Blythewood. By the time deputies arrived, the
coroner’s office says, paramedics were performing CPR to the child, who was
then rushed to the hospital.
Zion was in town visiting family members
when his family started searching for him after his mother noticed he was
not present, a news release said. He was later found unresponsive by his
mother in the back of the family’s car around 5 p.m.
Zion was last
seen watching TV before his mother noticed he was missing; the family
believes he walked out of the side door of the home and got into the
family’s SUV, accidentally got locked inside, and passed out of heatstroke.
“These kinds of incidents tug at my heartstrings,” Richland County
Sheriff Leon Lott says. “My deepest sympathies are with the family of this
At this time, no charges are being filed in this
case and the sheriff’s department is treating this as “a horrific incident.”
Zion’s death marks the first hot car death in Richland County since
2015. So far, nine children across the U.S. have died due to hyperthermia.
In 2018, six children in South Carolina dies of hyperthermia, and 52
children died of hyperthermia across the country, the most in 20 years.
According to San Jose State University, who has been tracking hot
car-related deaths since 1998, June and July are when officials see the
highest number of hyperthermia-related deaths.
The release says,
“Though most children who have died of hyperthermia have died [were]
forgotten by a caregiver (54 percent), 26 percent gained access on their wn
to an unlocked vehicle.”
“A child’s body heads up three to five times
faster than an adult’s and their organs begin to shut down when their core
body tempurature reached 104 degrees.,” Watts said. “Add in a vehicle [and]
this can happen in 15 to 30 minutes.”
Both the coroner’s off and the
sheriff’s department are stressing the importance of never leaving a child
in a vehicle unattended - not even for a second.
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