2-year-old dies in hot car in Irving

By SCOTT GOLDSTEIN
Staff Writer
sgoldstein@dallasnews.com
Published 26 August 2011 10:52 PM
Related items As a single mother unloaded belongings from her vehicle in Irving on Thursday night, some of her nine children played before she finished and instructed everyone to go inside.

It was 4:30 p.m. The temperature was about 102 degrees. One child was still in the car.

Hours later, when the mother, whose name was not released, could not find 2-year-old Muaawiyah Roberts, she called Irving police. Officers found him unresponsive in the back of the vehicle shortly after 8 p.m. He was pronounced dead at the scene in the 3900 block of Yellowstone Street north of West Airport Freeway.

Police say the boy may have been playing in and around the vehicle with his siblings, and the case appears to be an accident. The mother was not facing criminal charges as of Friday evening.

Child Protective Services has launched its own investigation, which could take up to a month. The children, who range in age from 1 to 15, remain in the mother’s care for now.

“A family friend has moved into the home to help take care of them and to monitor the situation,” CPS spokeswoman Marissa Gonzales said. “We want to make sure that the other children are safe.”

The family moved from California within the past two weeks, so the Texas agency does not have any history with them. Family members at the home declined to comment Friday.

The Dallas County medical examiner said toxicology results for the boy’s autopsy could take up to three months, but police said the death appears to be heat-related.

There have been at least 23 other vehicular heatstroke deaths of children nationwide this year, including five others in Texas, according to KidsAndCars.org, a national nonprofit focused on preventing children from being harmed in or around vehicles.

For a young child like Muaawiyah, the suffering would begin quickly.

“Their bodies don’t regulate heat the way adults do,” said Amber Rollins of KidsAndCars.org. “They can’t cool themselves down like you and I can. Their body temperature rises much faster. … They’re in there for a couple hours, they don’t stand a chance.”

There were 49 heatstroke deaths of children in vehicles last year nationally, the highest tally on record, according to the group, which has recorded 89 such fatalities in Texas since the group began keeping records in 1990. That’s the highest total of any state, according to the organization.

Craig Civale of WFAA-TV (Channel 8) contributed to this report.