Boy, 1 1/2, dies inside hot van
Fleming child and sister got in to play overnight
By Lee Mueller
HERALD-LEADER STAFF WRITER

A 1 1/2-year-old Fleming County toddler died yesterday morning, apparently of heat exposure after he and his sister climbed into a van outside their house, authorities said.

Kaleb Davis and his sister Rhenna, 2 1/2, left the house sometime after 3 a.m., the time their mother said she last checked on them, said Gary Workman, deputy coroner in Fleming County. The children climbed inside the van to play and locked it, he said.

The mother, who was identified by state police as Toni Barber, discovered them inside the blue Pontiac van about 9 a.m. and broke a window to rescue them, Fleming Deputy Sheriff Glen Robinson said.

The van was in the driveway of Barber's home in Grange City near Hillsboro, about 16 miles south of Flemingsburg.

Kaleb climbed into his car seat in the back seat and went to sleep, said Workman, who pronounced the child dead at the scene.

An autopsy will be performed today to determine the official time and cause of death, Workman said.

Barber told authorities Rhenna was still playing inside the vehicle when she found the children, Workman said. The girl was in stable condition at Fleming County Hospital, state police said.

Jan Null of Golden Gate Weather Service in Fremont, Calif., who tracks cases of children who die of hyperthermia in vehicles, said the temperature inside the van could have been high enough to kill Kaleb.

The low temperature in Fleming County yesterday at sunrise was 74 degrees, and it was 82 degrees by 9 a.m., said National Weather Service forecaster Hal Klingenberg.

"After an hour's time, the temperature is approximately 43 degrees above the outside temperature," Null said. "That would have put the temperature (inside the van) in the 120-degree range, if not a little bit higher. Plus, infants' and children's bodies heat up three to five times faster than adults'."

Null said the Fleming County toddler would be the 17th child in the United States to die of hyperthermia inside a vehicle this year.

Over the last several years, several children have died in hot cars in Kentucky.

In July 2005, a 2-year-old boy in Rockcastle County died in an overheated car. His mother said he had found his way out of the house and locked himself in the car while she was asleep.

This year, Leon T. Jewell of Lexington pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter after his 9-month-old son died when he was left in a hot vehicle. Jewell was suspected of being under the influence of prescription drugs and alcohol at the time. He was sentenced to probation and time in a rehabilitation center.

And in July 1999, 11-month-old Bryan Puckett of Lexington died after being left in a hot car at a shopping center by a baby-sitter. The sitter, Karen Murphy, was later convicted of manslaughter. That case led the state legislature to pass Bryan's Law, which stiffened penalties for leaving children unattended in cars.