3-year-old tried to free himself from hot car
Toddler and another 3-year-old were the third and fourth children to die in hot vehicles in Harris County this year
By JENNIFER LEAHY Copyright 2008 HOUSTON CHRONICLE
Aug. 14, 2008, 10:35PM
As the temperatures rose in his mother's locked truck on Thursday, authorities said the little boy managed to free himself from his car seat and climb to the front of the vehicle, where he put a key in the ignition.
But the 3-year-old died before he could escape the sweltering heat that soon overtook him in the truck's cabin, the Harris County Sheriff's Office said.
Cameron Thomas Boone, who celebrated his third birthday last month, was the second child within less than 24 hours to die in the Houston area after a loved one drove to work, locked the vehicle and forgot about them. The boys were the third and fourth children to die in hot vehicles in Harris County this year.
On Thursday, authorities said Cameron was trapped in his mother's truck — parked in a hospital parking lot — for nine hours before the woman discovered her son's body. The frantic mother used a rock to break the back windshield of the truck because the woman was unable to use the remote door locks with a key already in the ignition, authorities said.
In both the northwest Harris County case and Wednesday's incident in Webster, authorities say the driver forgot to take the child to daycare and drove straight to work leaving the child secured in the back seat of the vehicle.
In Thursday's case, authorities said the boy's father usually dropped him off at a daycare facility on Thursdays. It was unclear why he didn't make the trip Thursday morning, said Lt. John Denholm, Harris County Sheriff's Office.
The mother arrived at work at North Cypress Medical Center at 21214 Northwest Freeway about 6:30 a.m. and parked her white four-door Chevrolet pickup truck in the parking lot near Huffmeister.
When she walked out to the truck after her shift ended at 3:30 p.m., she found her son dead in the front seat of the truck.
Temperatures reached 97 degrees Thursday.
"Texas sun is very unforgiving. Temperatures inside cars escalate to fatal levels quickly," Denholm said.
Evidence indicates the boy spent his last minutes fighting to escape the unbearable heat.
"He was able to free himself from his car seat and climb to the front. We also found a key in the ignition, like he was trying to start the car, maybe open a window," Denholm said.
After breaking the back windshield, the mother grabbed her son and ran into the nearby emergency room where he was pronounced dead.
Hospital employees paused when walking to their cars late Thursday, some unaware of the tragedy, some in shock.
"I can't believe it — that poor child. That poor woman," said a nurse who asked that her name not be used.
"It's tragic — there's no other way to put it," said Denholm, who declined to comment on whether the mother may face criminal charges.
A Harris County grand jury will consider whether to charge the grandmother of the other 3-year-old boy who died Wednesday after being left in a car for about 10 hours.
The grandmother was leaving work about 5:45 p.m. at 421 E. NASA Parkway when she noticed the boy in the backseat.
Webster police said she apparently forgot to take him to day care.
Capt. Tom Claunch said his department will continue its investigation into the incident before submitting a complete report to the grand jury.
Child Protective Services spokeswoman Estella Olguin said that deviation from routine is a common denominator in such cases.
"Anytime you are doing something out of the ordinary you have to be extra vigilant. Put your purse, cell phone or wallet in the back with the baby," Olguin said.
She also said parents can keep a stuffed animal in the car seat and place the stuffed animal in the front seat when a child is in the backseat as a visual reminder.
"We all get distracted and have a lot on our minds so it's important that parents do anything they can do as a reminder that there is a child in the backseat," Olguin said.
Chronicle reporter Ruth Rendon contributed to this report.