Twin baby dies after left in car
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Huntsville Times

Police investigation continuing; no charges filed yet

A 10-month-old Harvest girl died Tuesday after apparently being left in the family vehicle parked at home in the sweltering heat with her twin brother for several hours.

The brother was in stable condition at Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children and was expected to make a full recovery, said Madison County Sheriff's Lt. Brad Beasley.

He would not release the names of the children or the parents Tuesday.

"The incident is under investigation at this time," Beasley said. "We're talking to people tonight, but no charges have been filed at this time."

He said deputies were called to 215 Salvia Court about 3 p.m. But, by the time deputies got there, the children were en route to the hospital by HEMSI and MedFlight.

The girl died on the way to the hospital, Beasley said, apparently of heat-related injuries.

The heat index for Tuesday was 100 degrees with a high temperature of 92 degrees, said Steve Shumway, of the National Weather Service office in Huntsville. The average normal temperature of June 14 is 86, he said.

On a 93-degree day, the inside of a car can exceed 125 degrees Fahrenheit in about 20 minutes. The temperature inside of a car is hotter than outside temperatures, and can climb rapidly, according to SAFE KIDS is a national non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of unintentional childhood injury.

All people who work outdoors have been feeling the heat this week, said Don Webster of HEMSI ambulance service. In addition to the calls about the babies Tuesday, paramedics also took a construction worker and a lawn care service worker to the hospital for heat-related injuries.

On Monday, another construction worker was taken by ambulance to the hospital because of heat stress.

5th death nationally

The girl's death is the third death nationally this month of a child being left in a hot vehicle. She is the fifth this year, according to Jan Null, adjunct professor of Meteorology at San Francisco State University.

A 4-month-old girl died in Jersey City, N.J. on May 13 when the temperature was 70 degrees; an 8-year-old died on May 22 in Asheville, N.C., when the temperature was 76 degrees; a 3-year-old boy died in Little Rock on June 6 with a 94-degree temperature; and a 2-year-old girl died in West Allis, Wis., on June 9 when the temperature was 85 degrees.

"There have now been 235 child deaths from this since 1998 and that's almost twice the number of hurricane deaths since that time," said Null.

Null, a meteorologist for 31 years and a certified consultant for the weather service, has been tracking such child deaths since 2001. No government agency tracks deaths of children left in vehicles on warm days, he said.

He said he started after reporters called him after a child left in a vehicle died in San Jose, Calif., wanting to know "how hot did it get in that car?"

At that time, the only study ever done was a one-day study of a 93-degree day in Louisiana.

Null began his study in 2002 and, once the results became available, many child advocacy groups wanted to use the information.

"It's a sad little niche I've carved out for myself, but it's important to get the word out to try to prevent such tragedies," he said.

Heat rises quickly

Through his research, he found heat rises "phenomenally" inside a vehicle - with or without the windows cracked. Within the first 10 minutes the heat rises 19 degrees, he said.

"Infants and children heat up much faster, doctors say three to five times faster than an adult," Null said.

Null said it's a tragedy that reaches all social levels.

"It's happened to a hospital administrator, dentists, professors, and the head of a day care center, so it's not just some lower-class phenomenon as many might think," Null said.