Child in hot auto dies

Mercury was near 99 when toddler found by relative

By Hal Lockard
The Capital-Journal

A toddler who was left unattended in a vehicle in the 2100 block of S.E. Jefferson amid searing temperatures Wednesday afternoon later died at a local hospital, police said.

Topeka police spokeswoman Kristi Pankratz said a 23-month-old boy was found unresponsive in a vehicle parked in front of 2122 S.E. Jefferson at about 3:58 p.m. According to the National Weather Service, Topeka's temperature at 3:30 p.m. was 99 degrees.

Police Lt. Dean McWilliams said a relative found the child in the vehicle and took him inside the home, then called 911. Police arrived first, McWilliams said, followed by firefighters from Station No. 5 and American Medical Response ambulance.

McWilliams said the child was responsive when police arrived and efforts to revive him were under way when emergency medical technicians arrived. The child was taken to Stormont-Vail Regional Health Center, where he later died.

Eric Vasquez, of 2147 S.E. Jefferson, said he was relaxing on his sofa when a passing fire engine interrupted his rest. He said he peeked out the door into the cul de sac "and saw firefighters run out of the house with the kid."

Other neighbors later returned home to find a police car parked in the center of the circle drive and crime scene tape stretched around 2122 S.E. Jefferson.

McWilliams said it was police procedure to treat any unattended death as a crime scene until detectives had completed their investigation.

He advised Topekans to be aware of how quickly it gets hot in a vehicle and never leave an unattended child in one.

Pankratz said police were continuing to investigate how long the child was left in the vehicle. The child's name isn't being released pending notification of additional family members, she said.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment on Wednesday reported that six Kansans had died from heat-related causes between July 16 and 20.

Those deaths involved men aged 65, 89, 46, 79 and 56, and a 67-year-old woman. The deaths occurred in the northeast, southeast, north-central and south-central regions of the state.

Dr. Howard Rodenberg, director of the KDHE Division of Health, said people could protect themselves from high temperatures by drinking plenty of water, taking breaks from the heat and wearing light-colored, loose clothing.