4-year-old boy dies after locking himself in car in Kenton
By ANGIE BASIOUNY • The News Journal • August 19, 2008

A Maryland toddler died this afternoon after he accidentally locked himself in the family car during a visit to his grandparents’ house in Kenton, state police reported.

Police believe the boy was in the car for several hours before family members discovered him unconscious inside the Nissan Altima shortly after 4 p.m. Paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene.

State police spokesman Sgt. Joshua Bushweller gave this account of what happened:

The 4-year-old boy from Sudlersville, Md., arrived at a home in the 200 block of Blackiston Road with his mother and two siblings earlier in the day.

About 12:30 p.m., the boy told his mother he was going to visit his father in a workshop that was about 100 yards from the home.

After visiting with his father, the boy said he was going back to the house to see his mother. But along the way back, the boy wandered to the car and locked himself inside.

The mother, believing her son is still with his father, asked her husband where the boy was about 4:15 p.m., police said. The parents quickly realized each thought the boy was with the other, and the family began searching the property.

The family called 911 about 4:16 p.m. and said the boy was unconscious, Bushweller said. Family members attempted CPR but was unable to revive him.

The boy’s body has been turned over to the State Medical Examiner for an autopsy.  Bushweller said detectives found no evidence of foul play and no charges were filed.


August 21, 2008

Child looked 'peaceful' when found dead

Boy, 4, died after falling asleep inside locked car

By KRISTIN HARTY
The News Journal

KENTON -- The boy looked like he was sleeping when family members found him inside the locked car -- an image that will comfort and haunt them forever.

Grandson of the founder of one of Kenton's oldest businesses, 4-year-old Patrick Zimmerman died Tuesday after accidentally locking himself inside his uncle's black Nissan Altima in 90-plus-degree temperatures.

"He was peacefully curled up on the car seat," said Patrick's father, Ethan Zimmerman, of Sudlersville, Md., who fought tears as he remembered. "He was very peaceful."

Delaware State Police have ruled the boy's death an accident.

His family can't quite understand how it happened.

Patrick and his sisters -- Heather, 6, and Megan, 1 -- had just eaten lunch at their grandparents' house on Blackiston Road, where the Zimmermans -- a large Mennonite family in the Kenton area -- also operate a furniture business.

Fred Zimmerman, Patrick's grandfather, founded American Heirlooms by Kenton Chair Co. more than 30 years ago in central Pennsylvania, moving the business to Delaware in 1984. The property, with several outbuildings and a small showroom, is surrounded by fields of corn and sunflowers.

After lunch Tuesday, the men returned to work in the shop while the women and children were napping, police and family accounts indicate. Patrick, as usual, had dawdled at the table, his step- grandmother, Sandra, remembered. And he was sleepy.

No one knows exactly when Patrick left the house, but at some point he walked to the shop to visit his father.

"One of the guys in the shop remembers seeing him in the break room at 3:30 p.m.," said Levi Yoder, who's worked at American Heirlooms for two years.

At 3:45 p.m., the baby awoke from her nap -- and so did everyone else, Grandma Sandra remembered. Patrick's mother, Beth Zimmerman, asked the question first: "Where's Patrick?"

Frightened, the family converged to search for the boy, who had been intrigued earlier by his uncle's new car. Ethan Zimmerman's brother, Winfred, had bought the used Nissan Altima just a week earlier.

Around 4:15 p.m., Sandra Zimmerman found him inside the stifling vehicle. His father and uncle pried the door frame, then broke glass, to get to him.

"Apparently Patrick decided to climb into Winfred's car, fiddled with the buttons, and locked himself in," Sandra Zimmerman wrote in a short description of the tragedy. "We think he was tired and fell asleep in the warmth, but his little body was overcome by the extreme heat in the closed black car, and he passed away in his sleep."

An autopsy report is pending.

Patrick was a "very energetic, friendly little fellow," his grandfather said Wednesday.

A middle child and only son, "he tended to be quiet," his father said. "He was ornery, like little boys are."

A funeral service will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday at Kenton Mennonite Church. Viewing will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Friday.

"Our faith in the designer of the universe is one of the reasons we can face this," said Ethan Zimmerman, who stopped at the furniture shop Wednesday afternoon to visit with employees about the accident. "But ... oh, my ... what's hard to take are the what-ifs and the would-have-beens."

The family plans to bury Patrick in the church cemetery, where his grandmother, Leora Faye Miller Zimmerman, also rests. She died in 2003 of an aneurism -- just six months before Patrick was born on Sept. 11.

"My mother never got to meet Patrick," Ethan Zimmerman said. "That's our thought -- that she is with him now."