Child locked in car dies

NORTH PORT -- A 2-year-old boy died Monday after being found locked in a car by his 13-year-old brother.

The teen was baby-sitting his five younger brothers and sisters when he noticed the 2-year-old missing.

"He went outside and found the toddler locked in the car in the driveway," said Lt. Chuck Lesaltato, public information officer for the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office. "After he couldn't get the car opened, he found a neighbor who broke a window with a red battery and removed the child."

The neighbor began CPR on the child, who was not breathing. Sarasota County Fire & EMS paramedics arrived at about 2:18 p.m. and took the child to Venice Hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

"Our prayers go out to the family," Lesaltato said.

The Sheriff's Office and the Department of Children and Families are investigating the death.

"Right now, it's a terrible accident," Lesaltato said, "but we will be investigating any possible criminal charges."

Lesaltato said the investigation will include whether or not the parents of the child were neglectful for leaving a 13-year-old to tend to five younger children.

Last year, 30 children died from hyperthermia, according to information from the National Safe Kids Web site. More than one-third of the deaths in 1999 occurred when children crawled into unlocked cars while playing. Once children crawl in, they don't have the developmental capability to get out.

"The brother told us he believes the car was unlocked when the toddler got into the car," Lesaltato said.

Police did not release the name of the child or his parents, due to the pending investigation.

When the outside temperature is 93 degrees Fahrenheit, even with a window open a crack, the temperature within a car can reach 125 degrees within 20 minutes and 140 degrees in 40 minutes. In these extreme conditions, a child can quickly die or suffer permanent disability.

"Heat rapidly overwhelms the body's ability to regulate temperature," said Dr. Martin Eichelberger, trauma surgery director at Children's National Medical Center and president of Safe Kids. "In a closed environment, the body can go into shock, and circulation to vital organs will begin to fail."

According to WINK-TV, the high for Monday was 92 degrees.

Last month, 2-year-old Alan Brown Jr. died after he was inadvertently left in a van in 100-degree-plus heat after he and 11 other children who attended Little Dudes and Daisies Daycare and Learning Center in Lancaster, Texas, returned from an outing to a pizza restaurant.

The workers realized Alan was missing about two hours later, after the other children napped and woke up for snacks, authorities said. Day-care workers found the boy unconscious in the van and called emergency help. Two were charged in his death.