Three children have died after being found unattended in vehicles during hot weather across the United States.
It means six children have already died in the US in 2023 from heatstroke in cars, double the number of this time last year, according to a California-based meteorologist who tracks the tragedies.
On Tuesday, police in Puyallup, Washington – a city just southeast of Tacoma – said they were investigating the death of a one-year-old who was left in a vehicle parked at a hospital while the child’s foster mother was at work.
The child was later discovered in the car at around 5pm last Wednesday after roughly nine hours.
The child was then taken to hospital and pronounced dead, police said.
Speaking to NBC affiliate KING of Seattle, police captain Don Bourbon said that police have suggested that it was a mistake and the foster mother was distracted enough to forget that the child was with her.
“It’s horrifying not only for the family but anyone who’s involved in a child’s death,” Mr Bourbon told NBC News.
Last Wednesday, temperatures in the region were in the low 70s Fahrenheit (around 20C).
Research has previously found that even a 70-degree day could result in deadly temperatures inside a car as it acts like a greenhouse.
One of deaths happened while parents in church
In Houston, police were investigating the death of a four-year-old boy who was found in an unlocked parked car with a two-year-old girl at about 4.30pm on Friday.
Police said that both children were rushed to hospital, where the boy was pronounced dead.
The children were found in the vehicle, with at least one of the children reported to be unconscious.
And in a city on Florida’s Atlantic coast, an 11-month-old was discovered unresponsive early on Sunday afternoon after being left in a parked vehicle for three hours unsupervised.
Officers said that the parents had been attending church service at the time and that the incident was now under investigation.
“This is an unfortunate incident,” police chief Mario Augello said in a statement, “and our condolences and prayers go out to the family.”
According to National Weather Service data, temperatures in the area on Sunday were at or near 80 degrees (over 25C).
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the US has said that a child’s body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult’s.
So, when a child is left in a car, the situation can quickly become dangerous.
In 2022, 33 children died from heatstroke in vehicles in the US.
The NHTSA has given advice to parents and guardians on how they can prevent hot car deaths. It said parents should:
• Never leave a child unattended for any length of time.
• Make it a habit to check your entire vehicle.
• Ask your childcare providers to call if your child does not show up for care as expected.
• Place an item in the back seat (like a bag or suitcase) as a reminder to look before you lock.
• Store keys away from children and teach children that a vehicle is not a play area.