The Lafayette Parish Coroner’s Office is conducting additional forensic testing to determine the cause of death.
LAFAYETTE — An 11-month-old boy died Monday after his father forgot to drop him off at a day care, instead leaving the infant in a four-door truck for nearly six hours while he was at work, the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday.
The baby, who has not been identified, was pronounced dead at 4:55 p.m., just one minute after his father brought him in for treatment at Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Capt. Kip Judice said Tuesday.
The father did not realize his mistake until the boy’s mother called to ask where their son was, Judice said.
“At that time, the dad had already left work and was running an errand somewhere and still didn’t realize he was in the car,” Judice said.
Investigators have confirmed the exterior temperature reached 99 degrees Monday, meaning the temperature inside the vehicle would have been considerably higher, Judice said.
At this point, it “appears that this was a very tragic event and not a criminal offense,” Judice said.
On most days, the mother took the child to day care, Judice said.
“It was outside of his routine to bring the child to day care,” Judice said.
Judice declined to release the father’s name or the name of the infant, “because there is no obvious threat to anyone if we do not release” the names.
“Out of respect for what appears to be the most tragic of incidents, we are convinced the release of the family name would only worsen the situation,” Judice wrote in an email. “That could change if evidence is uncovered that a criminal offense occurred.”
The Lafayette Parish Coroner’s Office is conducting additional forensic testing to determine the cause of death, Judice said.
Unless those results indicate that this was another type of act, the case will likely be sent to the District Attorney’s Office for review, Judice said.
If hyperthermia, or heat stroke, is determined to have caused the infant’s death, this will be the first such incident in Louisiana this year and the sixth incident nationwide, according to research by Jan Null, a certified consulting meteorologist who tracks such data. The research is available on ggweather.com.
Since 2005, there have been 10 such deaths in Louisiana, according to the website.
Null examined media reports from 494 child vehicular hyperthermia deaths from 1998 through 2011 and found the following:
- 52 percent, or 253 children, involved incidents where children were forgotten by caregivers.
- 30 percent, or 150 children, involved incidents where children were playing in unattended vehicles.
- 17 percent, or 86 children, involved children who were intentionally left in vehicles by adults.
- Circumstances were unknown in the remaining 1 percent.
Null also conducted a study of temperature rise in enclosed cars on 16 dates between May 16 and Aug. 8, 2002, with ambient temperatures ranging between 72 and 96 degrees.
The study found temperatures inside the vehicle climbed 19 degrees within 10 minutes; 29 degrees within 20 minutes; 34 degrees within 30 minutes; 43 degrees within 60 minutes and 45 to 50 degrees within one to two hours. Null also found cracking the window had little effect and that the vehicle’s interior color was likely the biggest factor affecting temperature increases.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, temperatures inside a car can rise well above 110 degrees even when temperatures outside are in the 60s.
Children’s bodies absorb more heat on a hot day than an adult and they are less able to lower their body heat by sweating, which causes body temperatures to rise rapidly, according to the NHTSA website.
Null provided some of the following prevention tips:
- Never leave infants or children in a parked vehicle, even if the windows are partially open.
- Make a habit of looking in the vehicle, both front and back, before locking the door and walking away.
- If you are dropping your child off at child care, and normally it’s your spouse or partner who drops them off, have your spouse or partner call you to make sure the drop went according to plan.
- Ask your child-care provider to call you if your child does not show up for child care.
Null also recommended writing yourself a note and putting the note where you will see it when you leave the vehicle, placing your purse or briefcase in the backseat or keeping an object such as a stuffed toy in the front seat as a reminder.