HARTFORD, Connecticut — A 15-month-old boy died after being left inside a parked car Monday night in Ridgefield, the latest in a string of similar cases in the state and country that have put a spotlight on the danger of leaving children in hot vehicles.
The unidentified child was left for “an extended period of time,” according to police. The cause of death has not yet been determined. No one has been charged in connection with the child’s death.
A number of other cases in Connecticut have resulted in criminal charges. None of those incidents resulted in a child’s death. The issue received national attention recently when a Georgia man was charged with murder after his 22-month-old died after being left in a car for seven hours.
According to Connecticut state police, 44 children have died from heat stroke in the U.S. in 2013. During the summer, the temperature inside a car can rise into the triple digits in a matter of minutes. But experts say that heatstroke can occur inside a vehicle even when the temperature outside is as low as 57 degrees.
Kevin Borrup, the associate director of the injury prevention center at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, said on 80-degree day, cars can heat up to 130 degrees. Heat stroke occurs when a child’s internal body temperature hits 104-105 degrees, he said.
“The smaller the child, the more quickly it can happen,” said Borrup.
This year, at least six cases have resulted in arrests.
Monday night, Cassandra Donnejour Nonossiold, 27, of East Haven, was charged with leaving a child unsupervised in a motor vehicle at a Target on Universal Drive about 9:25 p.m. Police said an infant and a toddler were left in the car for 16 minutes with a window slightly open. The children were not injured.
A week ago, a Groton man, Brian Pavao, 33, was charged with risk of injury to a minor after he allegedly left an infant in a 130-degree car outside a Shop Rite Supermarket in New London.
Police received an anonymous tip and found the vehicle with three of the windows closed and a fourth window open about 1 inch, police said. The child was alert and breathing when emergency officials arrived but had been in the car for 30 or more minutes, according to police.
Later that week, Nathalie Stonier, 36, of Shelton, was charged with risk of injury for allegedly leaving her 3-year-old child in a car while she went shopping. Police said the child was not hurt because a witness immediately called 911 after seeing Stonier walking away from the parked vehicle.
In June, two people were charged after state police say they left two children unattended in an idling car outside a grocery store in East Lyme.
Elizabeth Elliot, 22, of Auburndale, Fla., and Andrew Froberg, 30, of Old Orchard Beach, Maine, were each charged with risk of injury to a child, leaving a child unsupervised and first-degree reckless endangerment. The two children, 11 months old and 3, were sitting in child safety seats in the back seat of the car, police said.
In March, a West Hartford man was charged with risk of injury for allegedly leaving his 5-year-old nephew in the car while he was working out at a Shield Street gym. Danny Ramos, 36, told police he didn’t know the child was in the car.
Ramos was also charged with interfering with an officer and second-degree reckless endangerment. The charges are still pending, according to court records.
A New Britain woman was arrested in April for allegedly leaving her four children inside a vehicle while she shopped for a cellphone, according to police. Rosalie Rivera is facing four counts of risk of injury to a minor, as well as interfering with police. The children were 2, 6, 7, and 9 years old at the time.
The case of a 22-month-old in Georgia garnered national attention after the boy’s father was charged with murder. Police now believe that Justin Ross Harris, 33, who initially was seen as a grieving father, may have purposely left his son inside the vehicle.
Borrup said about half of the incidents occur when parents forget that their child is in the car and leave them there. In other cases, parents might think it’s OK to leave their child in the car for a minute but get delayed while their child is in the car, Borrup said.
“One minute turns to five minutes, turns into 30 minutes and you have a tragedy on your hands,” Borrup said.
Under state law, leaving a child unsupervised in a motor vehicle can result in felony charges, state police said. Anyone who observes a child left unattended in a vehicle is urged to call 911.
In other rare instances, Borrup said, children get into cars left unlocked in driveways and either get overwhelmed by the heat or can’t get out on their own.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advises parents and caregivers that cracking a window does little to keep the car cool and that a child’s body temperature can rise much faster than an adult’s.
Borrup said incidents in which parents forget their child is in the car can be avoided by leaving valuables, necessary items such as a phone or wallet in the back seat adjacent to the car seat.
He said parents should also always lock their car when leaving it in their driveway to prevent children from getting in.
Distributed by MCT Information Services