Baby found 'unresponsive' in car dies

HURRICANE -- An 11-month old girl found "unresponsive" and not breathing after authorities said she was left inside a hot vehicle in Hurricane on Friday afternoon has died.

Hurricane City Police Sgt. Brandon Buell said detectives talked to several people and determined the girl was left in her car seat "for a substantial period of time with the vehicle not running," and that the situation involved a family member.

"The Medical Examiner's Office will be conducting an autopsy to determine the cause of death," Buell wrote. "This is still an active and ongoing investigation."

Several Hurricane City Police officers rushed to the child's aid after she was located near 50 E. 480 North at approximately 1:07 p.m..

"Upon arrival, they found the infant was not breathing and CPR was being performed," Buell wrote. "Paramedics arrived on scene and tended to the infant."

A Life Flight helicopter was launched shortly after from Dixie Regional Medical Center.

Officers met members of the Life Flight crew at Hurricane Middle School where the child was taken by air back to DRMC in "extreme critical condition," Buell wrote.

She died a short time later.

"This incident is very tragic and our hearts go out to those involved, especially the family," Buell wrote. "We are saddened at the death of this infant child, and our condolences go out to the family. The temperature in a vehicle can rise substantially very quickly, which makes it a very dangerous situation."

When the infant was found, outside temperatures were approximately 93 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

According to The Weather Channel, a car's interior temperature reaches approximately 109 degrees within 10 minutes when the outside temperature is 90 degrees.

Within 20 minutes, the internal temperature reaches 119 degrees, and in 30 minutes, the vehicle reaches approximately 124 degrees.

Faraz Norozian, a Sunrise Children's Hospital (Las Vegas) pediatric critical care attending physician, said children are at higher risk of dying after being left in a vehicle because "children have a greater surface area to body mass ratio than adults."

"Babies' brains are not fully developed — the neurons are not fully functional until about 2, 3, or 4 years of age," Norozian said. "You do have a little thermostat in their brain that isn't fully developed, so, one, they lose heat faster and, two, they don't have a thermo-regulatory system that is fully functional."

Norozian said the body "doesn't function as well" as the internal body temperature increases.

"Just about every organ can be affected," Norozian said. "(Children) basically lose consciousness, and once they do, they obviously can't address the problem, so it gets worse and worse and worse. They get muscle cramps, dizziness, headaches, fatigue and weakness, and they just kind of lose consciousness. At that point there's confusion and stupor and so on. They're obviously sweating quite a bit, so they're losing water and basically become extremely dehydrated, which can lead to muscle breakdown and other problems."

Norozian said there isn't an exact time frame where a child will lose consciousness and their body will begin to fail after being left in a vehicle.

"Even leaving 30 or 40 minutes leaves them at risk," Norozian said. "This is something that's rare but completely preventable, and the only way to be able to prevent it is just to educate, educate and educate."

Follow Casie Forbes on Twitter, @CasieAForbes.

Belnap: No charges in Hurricane baby death

ST. GEORGE – The Washington County Attorney's Office announced Wednesday it will not pursue criminal charges in connection with the death of a Hurricane infant who was left in a hot car for more than an hour Aug. 1.

County Attorney Brock Belnap said that after reviewing the facts of the case and consulting with experts in criminal behavior and the psychological impairment that results from a change in routine, his office determined that justice would not be served by asking a jury to convict April Suwyn of a crime in connection with the death of her 11-month-old daughter Skyah.

Skyah was left in her car seat for about two hours at a time when temperatures outside the car were between 83.9 and 89.6 degrees – measured by a nearby weather substation.
Belnap said the purpose of criminal prosecutions is to protect the community from dangerous offenders, deter future criminal behavior and rehabilitate career offenders, none of which applies to the circumstances of Suwyn's case.

Prosecutions also seek to ensure the punishment of offenders involved in serious offenses against society, but in Suwyn's case the death of her daughter was in itself a punishing consequence, Belnap indicated.

"In light of the terrible penalty she's already paid, it doesn't make sense in my mind (to file charges), and isn't in the interest of justice," Belnap said. "We have to look at what's in the interest of justice and what goals are to be achieved."

Belnap laid out prosecutors' reasoning in a letter Wednesday to Hurricane Police Chief Lynn Excell.

The letter recites a timeline of events established through the Hurricane Police Department's investigation of the incident and the County Attorney's Office's followup investigation.

According to the letter, Skyah had been teething and April had not been feeling well for several days, which disrupted their sleep and may have affected April's judgment. The letter notes that the normal routine April followed in caring for her children also was disrupted on the day when Skyah died, and a combination of potential distractions apparently led to an "inadvertent lapse of awareness."

"Investigators ruled out any use of prescription drugs, illegal drugs, or controlled substances by April," the letter read. "Investigators consulted with forensic examiners from the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit to identify red flags of intentional wrongdoing. Investigators concluded that April's conduct was consistent with inadvertent lapse of awareness and there were no indicators of willful bad acts. April's conduct after the discovery of her child's death was appropriate."

April reported she had awakened at some point in the morning to play for about three hours with Skyah before going back to bed for another hour, then making breakfast for Skyah and her two sons at 8:30 a.m.

After a brief visit with a friend at 10 a.m., April took the children with her to wash the car before taking her sons to a babysitter's home a few blocks away from their home. The letter states April had an appointment to do a neighbor's nails and would normally leave Skyah with April's sister at home, but on Aug. 1 there was no one to watch Skyah, so April took the infant with her while dropping the boys off at the babysitter's home and then returned home for the nail appointment.

While dropping off the boys, April took the unusual step of getting Skyah out of the car seat and then asking herself, "'Why am I taking her out of her car seat,' knowing that Skyah was coming home with her," the letter states. "April hugged and held Skyah, who was awake at that time, and then put her back in the car seat."

Construction crews were working on the street where the Suwyns live, so April had to park on an adjacent street. A construction worker talked to her as she stepped from her car, which diverted her attention, according to the letter. She then went home to use the bathroom prior to the arrival of the nail appointment, believing Skyah was now sleeping in her crib as part of her regular nap time, according to the letter.

"April can not explain why she had a lapse of awareness regarding her daughter," the letter read.

After finishing the nail appointment and visiting with another friend, April went to pick up her sons at the babysitter's house, believing Skyah was still peacefully sleeping in her crib at home a few blocks away.

It was when April was putting her young sons in their seats in the back of the car that she discovered Skyah and began seeking medical help.

An autopsy by the State Medical Examiner's Office ruled the death an accident as a consequence of hyperthermia. A national expert on inadvertent lapse of awareness consulted by the County Attorney's Office said he does not believe the memory lapse is an act of negligence.

Belnap said a decision on whether to prosecute someone on the grounds of negligence in an apparent accidental homicide is not a simple one, but a combination of relevant factors usually provides clarity on what course to pursue.

"We wrestle with that all the time in talking about what is the standard of proof. Sometimes we say we're just going to let the jury determine that," he said. "But a lot of times we make a decision on 'What would a reasonable person do in this circumstance?' — and that's very subjective. … Personal injury lawyers can still make a case for simple negligence. The (negligence) standard is lower (in a civil lawsuit) and the burden of proof is lower."