ROCKLAND, Maine — The death of a 2-year-old boy who was found in a hot car Thursday was the 26th fatality of its kind in the United States this year, according to a researcher in California.
“Since 1998, at least 471 infants and children have died in hot vehicles in the United States and this is the second one in Maine. The last incident was July 29, 1998, in Skowhegan,” according to Jan Null, a certified consulting meteorologist at San Francisco State University.
According to Null’s research, 30 percent of the children who die in cars from hyperthermia or intense heatstroke in the United States were playing unattended in a vehicle.
Maine State Police said Friday that Paul Giamsiracusa Jr.’s death was a tragic accident.
Paul and his mother were taking an afternoon nap around 1 p.m. at their Lovejoy Street home. The child, who would have been 3 in August, got up and told his mother that he would go upstairs to watch television with his father, according to Sgt. Rick Fowler of the state police.
Paul’s teenage brother saw him with their father before leaving to hang out with friends.
“When Mom was preparing supper around 6 p.m. and the father was downstairs, they [each] thought the child was with the other parent,” Fowler said Friday.
When the parents discovered that neither one had the child, they called 911 and reported him missing.
Rockland emergency responders searched for the boy and found him lying down in the back seat of a car. All of the car’s windows were closed.
Paul was taken to Penobscot Bay Medical Center where he died at about 7:30 p.m., Fowler said. He said the boy’s internal temperature was elevated.
“With an outside air temperature [Thursday] afternoon of about 84 degrees, the inside air temperature of the car could have been near 130 degrees. Objects or a person inside the car in direct sunlight would have been significantly hotter,” researcher Null wrote in an e-mail Friday.
According to Christopher Burke, director of marketing and communication at Pen Bay Medical Center, the boy was in critical condition when he arrived by ambulance.
“Total accident is the way we see it — a tragic accident,” Fowler said.
The state medical examiner’s office, which conducted an autopsy on the boy Friday, reported that the case is pending further study. Officials at the office said they had not determined the cause of death and that it could take months to come to a conclusion.
The case is under investigation by Maine State Police and by Rockland Police Department. Fowler said no charges were pending on Friday.