Toddler dies Wednesday after being left inside hot SUV in Corpus Christi

CORPUS CHRISTI — A 15-month-old boy was killed Wednesday after being left strapped in a car seat for hours inside an SUV, police said.

Police were called about 3:45 p.m. to a house in the 3700 block of Grassmere Drive. Officers were told the boy's mother had driven to a store about 1 p.m. with six other children in the vehicle and returned home.

When the boy's father arrived about 3:45 p.m. he asked about the missing toddler, who was found unresponsive in his car seat.

The boy was rushed to Driscoll Children's Hospital, where he later died, police said. An investigation will determine if charges will be filed.

Temperatures reached 96 degrees Wednesday afternoon in Corpus Christi, the National Weather Service reported.

While inside a vehicle, temperatures quickly can eclipse those outside.More than 30 children die each year in the U.S. after being left inside vehicles, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Committee.

Just last week, a Corpus Christi toddler was rushed to the hospital after being found unresponsive inside a sedan outside a grocery store. Police found the child's grandmother inside the store who was unaware the child had been left behind.

15 Month Old Dies When Left Unattended In Vehicle

Occurred Wednesday, August 22, 2012, 15:47, 3700 Grassmere Drive, Injury to a Child 1208220083

A 15 month old boy died in a car seat after he was left unattended in a vehicle Wednesday afternoon on the 3700 block of Grassmere Drive.

A 26-year-old woman drove 7 children to a store Wednesday afternoon and returned to her home at the 3700 block of Grassmere Drive at 1:00pm. The 15 month old was in the company of 6 other children that range in age between 3 years old to 7 years old. Not all the children are children of the 26-year-old woman; but, the 15 month old boy is the child of the woman.

The 30-year-old father of the 15 month old child arrived at the home at 3:45pm and inquired about the 15 month old boy. The woman said she forgot the child in the car. The child was still in his car seat and not responsive.

The child was immediately rushed to the Children’s Hospital; but the child died.

Corpus Christi Police are carefully investigating this event to evaluate if criminal charges are appropriate. Child Protective Services are evaluating the circumstances to determine the appropriate placement of the other children.

Corpus Christi Police urge parents and child caregivers to prevent hyperthermia in a few ways to avoid heat related injuries or death. Never leave a child alone in a vehicle and consistently leave all unattended vehicles locked. Create reminders and habits such as leave a purse, cell phone, or item you need at your next stop near the child. Finally, take action and call 911 immediately if you see an unattended child in a vehicle.

Corpus Christi woman free on bail after arrest following child’s death in hot SUV
By Steven Alford

CORPUS CHRISTI — The Southside home sat silent Thursday, a day after a toddler left inside a hot SUV parked in the driveway died.

Toys and plastic playground equipment littered the front yard. A day earlier, the sounds of a half-dozen children would have filled the home.

The boy's mother, Concepción Garcia Rodriguez, 26, was arrested on suspicion of injury to a child Wednesday, hours after 15-month-old Benito died at Driscoll Children's Hospital.

Rodriguez, 26, was released early Thursday from the Nueces County Jail on $25,000 bail.

After hours of questioning at the city jail, Rodriguez was arrested and taken to the Nueces County Jail about midnight. She was released three hours later on $25,000 bail.

Police said she returned home about 1 p.m. Wednesday to the 3700 block of Grassmere Drive after driving to the store with seven children, all under 7 years old. Four of the children were Rodriguez's, police said.

All but one made it safely inside.

About 3:45 p.m. Rodriguez's husband returned home and asked about Benito. He was found unresponsive, still strapped into his car seat.

Rodriguez told investigators she thought the boy was napping in the home, according to a police statement. When she discovered him in the vehicle, she rushed the boy inside and tried to cool him down with cold water in a bathtub. A neighbor performed CPR on the boy before he was rushed to the hospital, where he died.

Tragically, it's something that happens more than 30 times a year in the U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

A child also died under similar circumstances Wednesday in Shreveport, La. The 6-month-old girl was left in a car seat all day in an SUV in the parking lot at a hospital where her father works.

Texas leads the nation in such deaths, accounting for nearly a fifth of last year's total.

But are such deaths a crime or a horrible accident?

It can happen to all parents, said Amber Rollins, spokeswoman for child safety group

"This is not an alcohol, drug or neglect problem," she said. "This is something that can happen to loving, responsible parents."

The organization is campaigning for mandatory warning systems in vehicles that alert a motorist if a child is left inside. It could be an alarm or beep similar to a seat belt warning which detects when someone is sitting in a seat unrestrained.

"The worst thing a parent can do is think that this couldn't happen to them," Rollins said. "We are all human."

Neighbors next door and across the street from the Rodriguez home cautiously answered their doors Thursday. There had been a barrage of emergency vehicles and media, and a police SUV could be seen parked at a house two doors away.

Those who answered their doors said the child's death was tough to discuss.

One woman, also a mother, described Rodriguez as an attentive parent who could be seen in the yard with her children as they played. A solemn middle-age man answered the door to the Rodriguez home Thursday, and softly declined to comment. An opened children's board game and a pack of diapers sat nearby in the hallway.

District Attorney Mark Skurka said police detectives contacted his office Wednesday shortly before arresting Rodriguez. After interviewing Rodriguez and meeting with a child abuse prosecutor, police felt they had enough probable cause to arrest her for the second-degree felony offense.

Prosecutors again met with police Thursday morning and looked at whether additional charges could be brought against Rodriguez. An autopsy was performed on the child Thursday and a cause of death ruling is pending until a series of test results are returned. The family's other children have been placed with relatives.

"We still have to evaluate what the facts indicate — was this an intentional or reckless killing, or an accident? Skurka said.

The District Attorney's office will present its findings to a grand jury which could decide whether to add enhanced charges, he said.