So far this year, 23 innocent children have lost their lives in hot cars. 11 of these children were accidentally left in the vehicle by their parents or caregiver, and 12 kids were playing in cars and got trapped. Here are their stories:
March 8 - Payton McKinnen, 17 months old of Ft. Myers, FL
Her father picked up Payton from daycare for a doctor's appointment early in the morning and returned to work at 11:09 a.m., where he accidentally left Payton in the vehicle. When he left work shortly after 3 p.m., he discovered his mistake. Source
April 18 - Sofia Wisher, 7 months old, of Antioch, CA
The family pulled up to its home late Saturday after doing laundry at a relative's home. Each parent thought the other would be taking Sofia inside but neither did. The next day, Sofia's father drove to the gym not knowing the infant was in her car seat lifeless the whole time. Source
April 23 - Joseph Chatmon, 21 months old, of Forsyth, GA
Joseph's mom forgot to drop the toddler off at daycare and accidentally left him in his car seat all day while she was at work at an elementary school. He was not discovered until she left work late that afternoon. Source
April 29 - Brianna Jones, 7 months old, of Dallas, TX
A family friend was supposed to take Brianna to a day care center after running errands, but forgot. Brianna was accidentally left in a hot car for more than four hours in the driveway of the friend's home. Source
May 5 - Juan Ramirez, 3 years old, of Del Rio, TX
Juan snuck into the family car unnoticed. It was three hours from the time the boy was last seen alive to the time he was found inside the vehicle. Source
May 15 - Gavin Damarest, 2 years old of Manchester, TN
Gavin had been playing outside with other children, and when it began to rain, the other kids came inside. When Gavin's father noticed Gavin was not with the other children, he began searching for him. Gavin was found buckled in his car seat in the unlocked family car. His father said his son was able to buckle the main buckle but was not strong enough to unbuckle it. Source
May 26 - Atrinity Hasbell, 2 years old, of Meeker, OK
A friend was supposed to drop the young girl off at daycare but forgot. Atrinity was left in a hot car in the parking lot of the friend's workplace all day. Source
May 26 - Maddison Jones, 9 months old, of Columbus, OH
Maddison's 70-year-old great-grandmother forgot to bring in the baby to the day care where she volunteered. She was left in the car for four hours. Source
May 27 - Alexander Morales, 18 months old, of Ft. Worth, TX
The boy's grandmother was supposed to be watching him as his parents slept; they both work late shifts. The grandmother reportedly left the house and went to the nearby residence of another family member after she put the baby down for a nap. He was later found inside a locked car parked in a neighbor's driveway. There was a child's blue step stool next to the passenger's door. Source
May 28 - Lesli Selena Cuevas-Villagomez, 2 years old, of Wyoming, MI
Lesli was playing outside when her 14-year-old sister lost track of her. She was later found in a hot car. Her family thinks the girl managed to climb into the vehicle and could not get out. Source
June 4 - Asante Arellano, 2 years old, of San Antonio, TX
Asante got into his family's parked car unnoticed; family members thought he was inside the home around 3:00 p.m., and only realized he was missing around 7 p.m. Source
June 13 - William Dylen Mahaffey, 4 years old, of Russellville, AL
William was playing hide-and-seek with neighborhood children when he apparently climbed in the vehicle. Source
June 16 - Twins Allannah and Alliya Larry, 2 years old, of Portageville, MO
The twins climbed into their grandmother's car outside of her apartment on their own while the grandmother was napping. The two girls had actually locked themselves inside a car before. Source
June 16 - Alexia Ortiz, 11 months old, of Kingsville, TX
Her mother had just returned home from picking up her children when she mistakenly left the baby in the family car for 45 minutes. Source
June 18 - Melody Bocanegra, 2 years old, of Longview, TX
Her dad accidentally left the girl in the backseat of the family car in the driveway for over five hours. Her 13-year-old sibling discovered her lifeless body. Source
June 19 - Holland Judy, 5 months old, of Lexington, KY
The infant's mother, a single mom with three other children, accidentally left the baby in the car in the driveway of the family's duplex. Source
June 19 - Marcus Jefferies, 3 years old, of Pinson, TN
Marcus' mother and her boyfriend searched for the child after her boyfriend came home from the store and saw the door to the house was open and the child was missing. The mother was asleep inside the home while her boyfriend went to the store. The child was found about 4 p.m. unresponsive in the car at his home. Source
June 21 - Hunter Iles, 2 years old, of Hineston, LA
Hunter was found dead in the front passenger seat of his family's car after playing with other children outside his home. Source
June 27 - Zipporah Johnson, 21 months old, of Phoenix, AZ
Zipporah Johnson's parents had gone to church with their six children and traveled in two vehicles, one of which was a minivan. The father accidentally forgot to bring her inside from the backseat of the minivan. Source
July 11 - Anthony Michael Hickey, 18 months old, of Rockport, TX
The family was visiting the child's great-grandmother when Anthony went missing. He was later found unresponsive in the family SUV. Source
July 13 - Jaden Carpenter, 3 years old, of Chandler, AZ
Jaden slipped out of the house and got into the car when his mom was studying. He was discovered dead less than thirty minutes later. Source
July 14 - Jahzel Pinon, 2 years old, of Albuquerque, NM
The mother accidentally left her 2-year-old in her car when she took her 4-year-old for an appointment. She said she forgot the child was in the vehicle. Source
According to Janette Fennell, founder and president of Kids and Cars, a national nonprofit group that advocates for child safety, roughly 36 infants and children die annually in the U.S. from being trapped in hot cars.
As mentioned above, TWELVE children have died in 2010 after playing in vehicles. It's imperative to keep car doors locked at all times -- and keep keys out of reach of children. Often, boys go into cars to push buttons and play with the wheel like they see their parents do, says Fennell. "A lot of times, they get unlucky and the doors are locked. Or the heat overtakes them and they pass out," Fennell told AZ Central.
Eleven kids so far in 2010 were forgotten in vehicles. Of these cases, four children were forgotten by their mothers, three by their fathers, one by both mother and father, two by family friends, and one by a great-grandmother.
How can someone forget their child? "Everyone thinks these parents are bad or strung out on drugs, but parents who've lost their kids in these types of accidents include pediatricians, doctors, school principals, lawyers, and NASA engineers," she says. "For the most part, these are highly educated, extremely loving and doting parents."
She says these accidents have little to do with how good a parent is, and everything to do with how a memory functions -- or doesn't function. "In the early '90s, these cases were rare. But then, in the mid-90s, front passenger airbags were installed in cars and there was a huge campaign to get kids to move to the backseat. An unintended consequence of this was kids dying of hyperthermia in cars -- because children were out of sight, out of mind."
In many of the cases, forgotten children are under the age of 1 in rear-facing car seats. Their parents are not sleeping much, which comes into play. "And in an overwhelming majority of cases, there has been a change in routine," Fennell explains.
She says the biggest mistake parents can make is thinking this cannot happen to them. "That's what these parents probably thought, too," she says. Fennell shares three ways to help prevent these deadly accidents:
1. Starting today, put a teddy bear or stuffed animal in your child's car seat. When your child is in his or her car seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat as a visual reminder your child is in the backseat.
2. Keep your lunch bag, employee badge, or purse in the backseat. That way, you'll always reach into your backseat or open your back door when you arrive at your destination.
3. Have an ironclad policy with your day-care provider that if your child does not show up, that person will call a provided list of contacts to confirm his or her whereabouts. "In so many cases, if the day-care provider would have called, tragedy could have been averted," says Fennell.
Kids and Cars is working hard to pass legislation that would require auto makers to install weight-recognition sensors in cars that would alert parents who've left their kids in the backseat. "We won't give up until it's passed, because it would save countless lives," Fennell concludes.
Our hearts go out to the families of the 23 children who've died.
What do you think of parents who've left kids in cars? Was it a tragic accident or the result of just plain neglect?