(KMOV) -- On a recent hot summer day in the Metro East, the heat and an intoxicated father cost a toddler his life.
Investigators say Wayne Hubert planned to take his 4-year old daughter and 23-month-old son, Nathan, to the park.
“The father put the child in the car approximately two-and-a-half hours earlier and got sidetracked or distracted and forgot about the child” said Capt. Jeff Wild with the O’Fallon IL police department.
Wayne Hubert was found passed out on the floor of his home with his daughter unattended in the house and son in a car seat with only one window slightly open, no air conditioning and temperatures hitting 91 degrees.
Wayne Hubert now faces a charge of involuntary manslaughter and two counts of child endangerment.
Child heat deaths can strike any community; in the past 15 years close to 600 children have died after being found left inside sweltering cars: that’s 40 innocent victims a year.
And statistically it can happen to any family now matter race or socioeconomic status.
That does not mean the cases are without controversy, think back to 2007, two cases of children left in cars during the heat of August in St. Louis.
First, then two-year-old Ricky Dixon left in the Happy Go Lucky Child Care Center van during a field trip to the Science Center. Dixon was found, taken to the hospital, and sent home the same day.
25-year-old Delea Payne was then charged with second degree child endangerment.
Then just two weeks later, 7-month-old Sophia Knutson died after being left in her parent’s car in a Washington University Medical Center parking lot.
Security cameras captured the critical, harried moments when the couple lost track of who had the child.
Sophia’s parents traded cars and her father did not know she was in the back seat.
Three hours later a woman came rushing into the building after spotting little Sophia, there was a commotion as others rushed to the parking lot and broke a car window to reach her.
It was too late, police estimate the temperature inside the car reached at least 119 degrees
After watching the surveillance video, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce decided not to criminally charge Sophia’s parents
That caused uproar from Delea Payne’s attorney who called it a race and socioeconomic bias.
After a huge public outcry, all charges were dropped against Payne.
July 31st is Heat Stroke Prevention day and just in time to try and stop any more of these deaths, a Public Service Announcement was released showing how quickly a forgotten child can succumb to rising temperatures. In just 15 short minutes, children can suffer life threatening injuries.
The video shows the steps on how to help: get the child out, call 911 and try to cool them down.
Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center Emergency Room Doctor Steve Laffey has seen these cases too often.
“Well the temperature goes up very quickly once the car doors are closed and what’s impressive is that the outside temperature doesn’t have to be that high” said Dr. Laffey.
Even on cooler days, with doors and windows closed, temperatures can reach up to 120 degrees inside a car.
“About half of the cases are cases are where a child’s just been accidently left or forgotten in a car, people are busy and distracted” said Dr. Laffey.
Unfortunately, cases of kids left in hot cars have risen with the introduction of rear facing child seats, while they better protect infants from crashes; it’s easier to forget about a sleeping baby.
“Suggestions that have been made, put something back in the back seat next to the car seat, put your purse or your wallet or something that’s important that you won’t forget so that you have to go back to the back seat before you leave” said Dr. Laffey.
Or place a stuffed animal in the car seat, then when the child is in the seat move the animal up front with you as a reminder, but older children simply having fun have also lost their lives to heat.
“About 30 percent of the cases are cases where kids are playing in unlocked cars. We need to stress to them that they are not toys or playgrounds and it’s not a place that they should be playing and we need to keep our cars locked” said Dr. Laffey.
Dr. Laffey also stresses that if your child goes missing, check the car first before running to neighbors houses, they could be trapped inside.
Child Heat Death Links