Baby dies in locked car
Steve Rubenstein, Chronicle Staff Writer

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

(07-25) 20:29 PDT -- An 11-month-old boy died in the back seat of the family car on Tuesday in Concord after his father apparently forgot to drop him off at day care and instead left him locked inside the vehicle while he spent the day at work, police said.

The father, a 47-year-old resident of Solano County who was not identified, left home early Tuesday with his son strapped into a child seat, according to lieutenant David Chilimidos.

The man did not stop at the child care center and went directly to his office at a medical equipment company at 4040 Nelson Avenue, parking his car, a blue Honda sedan, in the lot near the office.

When he came out at 3:30 p.m., he found the lifeless body of his son still strapped in the car seat.

Temperatures in Concord were in the mid 70s on Tuesday but the car windows were believed to have been rolled up and extreme temperatures inside the car were probably a factor in the child's death, Chilimidos said.

"It doesn't take very long to elevate the internal temperature inside a closed car,'' Chilimidos said.

Police were continuing to question the father at police headquarters on Wednesday evening. Chilimidos said the case would probably be referred to the district attorney for the possible filing of criminal charges.

Every year, about three dozen U.S. children die of heat stroke after being left unattended in cars, according to experts. Even a day with average weather conditions can raise temperatures inside a vehicle to life-threatening levels.

In 2005, in a study published in the journal Pediatrics, a Stanford University professor found that the temperature inside a parked car increased 19 degrees within 10 minutes and 40 degrees within a daytime hour, regardless of outside temperature. The sharp increase is due to the greenhouse effect -- the sun's rays pass through the windows but the interior heat cannot escape.

"The take-home message is that you should never leave kids alone in a car, " said Dr. James Quinn, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Stanford.

Cracking the windows or running the air conditioning before turning off the engine does not keep the car any cooler.

Children are particularly vulnerable because they have a higher ratio of body surface area to weight, the study found.

Nine states, including California, have laws designed to prevent children dying in overheated cars. In California, "Kaitlyn's law" makes it illegal for any parent or guardian to leave any child 6 years old or younger in a car without supervision.

Another medical study found that most deaths occur when an adult simply forgets a child is in the car. Others occur when children accidentally lock themselves inside a car or when a parent intentionally leaves a child in a car to run an errand.

In 2001, Brian Gilbert, 25, of San Jose left his 5-month old son, Kyle, in a baby seat inside his car while he watched a cartoon at a relative's home. Gilbert told authorities he forgot all about his son when he went into his friend's home. He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to four years of probation.

There have been several cases in the Bay Area where children died after being left unattended in cars.

In 2002, Lonnie Sopko, 60, of South San Francisco was charged with involuntary manslaughter after leaving his 5-month-old granddaughter, Kiana, inside a hot car where she was found dead hours later. Sopko told authorities he had forgotten to drop his granddaughter off with the sitter.

Also in 2002, Bretta Kendall, 48, of Oakland, was charged with involuntary manslaughter after she left her 8-week-old grandson in her car while she went to work. Kendall told authorities she forgot her grandson was in the car.

Two years ago, Rena Corban of Healdsburg was sentenced to seven years in prison after her 2-year-old son died in a locked minivan in the driveway of her home while she went inside the home and passed out from the effects of Vicodin and alcohol.