Child dies after being left in vehicle for 3 hours

By Lindsey Stockton, staff writer

A bad decision led to tragedy Wednesday when a two-year-old girl was left in a car for three hours.

Southwest Ambulance was called to the parking lot of the Windsong building at 4:15 p.m. in reference to a child who was not breathing. The 911-caller suggested that heat exhaustion was the cause. Ambulance personnel attempted to resuscitate the child with CPR and transported her to Mt. Graham Regional Medical Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Safford Police officers were notified, and they responded to the Windsong building and hospital.

According to a news release from Safford Police Department, the preliminary investigation revealed that the child was left unattended in the vehicle for approximately three hours with no ventilation. At the time of the incident the child was in the care of her grandmother. Names are being withheld until the parents are notified.

The incident is still under investigation.

In a similar case, Thatcher Police officers were called to the Wal-Mart parking lot at 8:45 a.m. on Thursday in reference to a child who was left in a maroon-colored Ford Expedition.

Thatcher Police officer Shaffen Woods responded to the scene, where he found two Wal-Mart employees next to the unattended vehicle. Inside the SUV was a 17-month-old boy strapped in his car seat. Woods opened the driver's side door, which was unlocked, removed the boy from the vehicle and placed him in the air-conditioned patrol car.

Woods reported that the boy was not crying, but he was sweating and warm to the touch. He called an ambulance to check the child's health.

Woods ran the vehicle license plate to identify the owner, Karen Fox, who was paged inside Wal-Mart. She came out of the store pushing a shopping cart and ran toward the vehicle when she saw Woods.

Fox told officers that she had been in the store about 30 minutes and had forgotten she had the baby with her. The Wal-Mart employees told Woods they had been with the vehicle for about 15 minutes prior to his arrival.

Fox's five other children were at home with a babysitter.

Fox was released with her baby, whose temperature was 98.3 degrees. He was not transported to the hospital because paramedics said he looked okay.

Woods sent the report to the Graham County Attorney's office and filed an incident report with Child Protective Services.

Woods gained access to Wal-Mart's security cameras to determine the amount of time Fox was in the store, but the time stamp on the camera was not working.

Woods also said he contacted the University of Arizona, which reported the temperature to be 88 degrees at 8:30 a.m. and 90 degrees at 9 a.m.

On June 22, a two-month-old boy was found in a car outside Aaron's Furniture Store in the Safeway shopping center.

Daniel S. Rowan II called 911 to report the incident after he parked next to the vehicle containing the child. Rowan told Thatcher Police officer Lee Thomas that he heard the baby crying and found him in a vehicle with its windows rolled down but the engine turned off. After waiting for a minute to see if somebody was coming for the child, Rowan removed the baby from the vehicle, put him into his own and turned on the air conditioning. He told Thomas that the child was covered in sweat when he picked him up.

The baby's father, Shawn Jean Pierre Lietar, told police officers he brought his roommate, Annalisa Aguinaga, and her children to Aaron's. He was sitting in the car until one of Aguinaga's children came out of the store to ask him a question. At that time he went into the store, leaving the child in the car.

According to videotapes from the store's security cameras, Lietar entered the store at 4:14 p.m. According to Aaron's employee Faroog Bhatti, one of Aguinaga's children asked Lietar if the baby was still in the car. At that point, the film shows Lietar running from the store at about 4:46 p.m.

Aguinaga told police that Lietar was playing computer games while inside Aaron's.

Lietar told police that he was on medications and that the entire incident was a blur. Lietar said the baby was being so quiet that he didn't remember his son was in the car.

After the incident, officers contacted the University of Arizona and learned that while the baby was left in the car, the outside temperature was 103 degrees.

The baby was transported to Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center, where it was determined that he sustained no injuries or distress as a result of being left in the car. He was treated and released into the custody of Sharon Lietar, the baby's grandmother.