Authorities have released the names of two young brothers who died over the weekend after they climbed into a hot car and got locked inside.
The Shelby County Coroner’s Office identified the siblings as Daniel Garcia, 3, and Ivan Salazar Jr, 1. Coroner Lina Evans said autopsies showed the boys’ deaths were consistent with Pediatric Vehicular Heatstroke.
Daniel and Ivan’s deaths were the 16th and 17th children to die in a hot car in 2020. Since Saturday, however, two more children died after they were unknowingly left in vehicles – one in Texas and one in Oklahoma, for a total of 19 this year, according to kidsandcars.org. In Alabama alone last week, three children died in “hot car” deaths. A fourth was initially believed to be a “hot car” death but actually was a homicide.
Shelby County authorities responded about 3:30 p.m. Saturday to a residence off County Road 25 in Montevallo. The parents told authorities the two boys were thought to be playing in their rooms but had gone outside apparently. The family frantically searched for them and eventually found them inside the vehicle. Both were unresponsive and rushed to Shelby Baptist Medical Center where they were later pronounced dead.
With an outside air temperature of approximately 91 degrees, the inside air temperature of the car could have been in excess of 135 degrees. Objects or a person inside the car in direct sunlight would have been significantly hotter, said Jan Null, adjunct professor of meteorology at San Jose University and a “hot car” death expert.
Evans said the boys had gotten into the vehicle sometime after 1 p.m. and were discovered about 3:30 p.m. Autopsies were done in Montgomery Monday. Both Evans and Shelby County sheriff’s officials called the boys deaths a “tragic accident” and said no foul play was involved.
“Our hearts and prayers are with the family of those two little boys during this unimaginable tragedy,’’ Sheriff John Samaniego said in a prepared statement.
Family members of the boys have built two large crosses outside of the car that is parked in their yard. They were, however, too distraught to talk about what happened.
“Daniel was one of the happiest kids you would ever meet. He enjoyed watching cartoons, especially Dinosaur King and Octonautsm,’’ according to his obituary. “He adored his baby brother, Ivan, and would never let him out of his sight. He loved playing outside and riding his four-wheeler and little car.”
“Ivan was a happy child that was full of laughter,’’ the obituary stated. “He always wanted to be held. He was a momma’s boy during the day but wanted his daddy as soon as he arrived home. He loved and adored his daddy.”
A double funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. at the Chapel of Ellison Memorial Funeral Home in Clanton.
The boy’s deaths mark the second time last week children died in Alabama after being found in a hot car. On Sunday, Aug. 9, 3-year-old Bentley Fowler was declared dead in a car on Church Street in the northwest Alabama town of Hodges. In that case, the boy’s parents, Dakota Heath Fowler, 20, and Brandi Michelle Burks, 22, were arrested on manslaughter charges, according to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.
On Wednesday, Aug. 12, 3-year-old Kaiden Garner died in Florence and authorities initially believed that death resulted from heat exposure as well, but the investigation deemed the boy died from blunt force trauma. No arrests have been announced in that case.
Alabama ranks 12th in the nation by a large margin based on the number of child hot car deaths with 29 fatalities since 1995, according to kidsandcars.org. On average, 26 percent of U.S. hot car deaths are the result of children getting into vehicles on their own and not able to get out. However, this year there has been a drastic increase with 47 percent of U.S. child hot car deaths – 8 of 17- involving toddlers who got into vehicles on their own, said Janette Fennell, president and founder of kidsandcars.org.
Last year there were a total of 52 Pediatric Vehicular Heatstroke deaths in the U.S., with three of those in Alabama.
Experts say that as parents and caregivers are sheltering at home during this unprecedented pandemic, supervision can be more difficult than ever. “Young children climb into unlocked cars and trunks to play, but they can’t always get out,’’ Fennell said. “With fewer parents and caregivers traveling to work, and fewer children attending childcare and preschool, it is imperative that all drivers, even those without children, lock their vehicles so children cannot gain access. “
They offered these safety tips to make sure children cannot get into a parked car:
? Use childproof doorknob covers, baby gates or door alarms to ensure toddlers cannot sneak out of the home.
? Keep vehicles locked at all times, especially in the garage or driveway. Ask neighbors and visitors to do the same.
? Never leave car keys within reach of children.
? Teach children to honk the horn if they become stuck inside a car.
? If a child is missing, immediately check the inside, floorboards and trunk of all vehicles in the area very carefully.
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