Police called the girl's death a "tragic mistake"

By Dave Quinn
October 15, 2019 10:38 AM
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A 1-year-old girl in Tampa has died after her parents left her inside her family’s car in the Florida heat by mistake, police tell PEOPLE.

The toddler — whose name has not been released — was discovered by her parents in their Jeep after 6 p.m. on Monday, according to authorities.

She had been left in there all day, after her father used the vehicle to take his other children to school before changing cars and heading off to work.

Temperatures in Tampa reached 90 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday, records from the National Weather Service show.

“It appears it was a very busy morning for the family,” Tampa Bay Police Department public information officer Steve Hegarty said. “They have several other children as well and, in an effort to get everybody where they needed to go, the toddler was left in the backseat.”

Police and Fire Rescue responded to a 911 call from the girl’s parents at approximately 6:24 p.m. They discovered her unconscious and not breathing.

The toddler was transported to an area hospital, where she died of her injuries.

The investigation is ongoing, but police tell PEOPLE that the parents in the case are unlikely to be prosecuted — calling the case, “a tragic mistake.”

This is the 50th case of a hot car death this year, according to KidsandCars.org, an advocacy organization that aims to prevent deaths of children involving vehicles.

That number represents an increase from the approximately 37 children under 14 who die from being left in hot cars each year, according to NoHeatStroke.org, which studies child vehicular heatstroke deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control say that it is never safe to leave children unattended in a car in any weather, even with the window cracked open. To remember that a child is in the car, they recommend keeping a stuffed animal in the child’s car seat on days when they’re not, and moving the stuffed animal to the front passenger seat when the child is there as a reminder. Other suggestions include placing purses or bags in the backseat beside the child, or even one shoe so parents are assured to check before leaving the car.

There are also several companies who created devices that remind parents to remove their child. In 2017, an 11-year-old boy invented one such device called Oasis, which senses when the car has stopped moving, or if the temperature is rising, and blows out cold air, while alerting parents with a text message.

Also in 2011, Congress introduced a bill that would require all new cars to be equipped with some kind of alert device. The bill, H.R. 2801, HOT CARS Act of 2017, passed through the House of Representatives but is still awaiting a Senate vote.

Anyone who sees a child unattended in a car should call 911.