Toddler inside searing SUV dies

PARK CITY - Hours after emergency crews found the dying toddler, sheriff's deputies still sought the answer to everyone's first question:

How could a 22-month-old girl remain alone inside a sport-utility vehicle for eight hours under Monday's searing sun?

"That's what we'd like to know," said Capt. Sam Houston of the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Department. "We still don't know. We're trying to get to the bottom of it."

Houston's detectives, deputies and crime scene investigators conferred late Monday afternoon under a shade tree, which provided respite from heat still hovering at 105 degrees at the driveway east of 69th North and Broadway.

Here's what they had pieced together about the girl's death:

The Wichita girl's mother dropped her two children off for an uncle to care for around 9:30 Monday morning. The uncle provided the children's regular day care. He had his four children there, too, in the tan mobile home with the screened-in front porch, just a hedgerow north of the Park City limits.

The blue GMC Suburban didn't belong to the uncle. It sat outside, the windows rolled up and the toddler inside, until a 911 call came from the house around 5:30 p.m.

By that time, the thermometer had hit a high of 109. It had been 100 degrees or warmer since 2 p.m.

The Suburban sat closest to the house, parked beside a rusting, red, 1960s-era Mustang and a pickup. A jungle gym stood near the SUV, behind a riding lawn mower. A weathered above-ground pool sat some 50 feet away.

"The car never moved," Houston said.

The vehicle sat a long way from the road's view, and the North City Restaurant and Club across 69th Street North was closed Monday.

County emergency medical and fire crews arrived to find the little girl with only a faint pulse. She died at Via Christi Regional Medical Center-St. Francis Campus.

Investigators remained in the shade of the tree waiting for a search warrant to arrive so they could go inside the house. Several children left with authorities, but Houston said they were going only for interviews. No children were in protective custody. No one was arrested, he said.

First, authorities needed answers. And they would stay into the night looking for them.