Four months after a 2-year-old girl died from heat stroke in a Florida car, her father has been charged with manslaughter, the sheriff’s office says.
Deputies and paramedics were called to a Prosperity home May 16 by a woman who was in hysterics and unable to tell the dispatch what was happening, Holmes County Sheriff John Tate said in a May 17 news conference.
The dispatcher called in a welfare check for the location of the call, Tate said, and the first deputy to arrive was met by a mother, 23, carrying a toddler who was unresponsive.
Despite life-saving measures by the deputy and paramedics, the child was declared dead shortly after, Tate said.
Paramedics took the body temperature of the little girl and found she was 107 degrees, according to the sheriff.
The mother told deputies she had found her toddler in the house, but knowing the temperature of the child, Tate said investigators knew “something wasn’t adding up.”
Investigators took the mother and the toddler’s father, 32, into custody and began interviews, the sheriff said.
McClatchy News is not identifying the parents to protect the identity of their two children.
The mother told investigators she had gotten off work around midnight and picked up the toddler and her 4-year-old child from their babysitter, Tate said.
She drove home with the two children, and the toddler fell asleep, so the parents decided to leave her in the car and went inside their home, according to the sheriff.
The parents fell asleep, Tate said, and didn’t realize the kids were in the car until they woke up around 3 p.m. the next day.
During the night, the 4-year-old had gotten out of the car and went inside, but the 2-year-old remained outside for a total of 14 hours, the sheriff said.
The parents were charged with child neglect, possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia in May.
The 4-year-old was taken into protective custody by the Department of Children and Families, according to the sheriff’s office.
The sheriff said he believes drug use played a part in the child being left in the car for that extent of time.
On July 4, the child’s mother was charged with aggravated manslaughter, according to court records obtained by WJHG.
On Sept. 28, the sheriff’s office announced an additional charge of aggravated manslaughter against the toddler’s father.
Prosperity is an unincorporated town about 115 miles west of Tallahassee.
Hot car deaths
More than 950 children have died in hot cars since 1998, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“About 40 children a year die from heatstroke, either because they were left or became trapped in a car,” officials said. “That’s about one child every 10 days killed in a hot car.”
Hot car deaths are most common in the summer, but they can happen at any time, according to the administration. The first “vehicular heatstroke” of the year typically happens in March.
“Leaving a window open is not enough — temperatures inside the car can rise almost 20 degrees Fahrenheit within the first 10 minutes, even with a window cracked open,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
If you see a child alone in a vehicle, officials said you should make sure the child is responsive and if not, immediately call 911.