On one of the hottest days in Houston area so far, a five-year-old was locked in a car for several hours before his family realized he wasn't inside the house.
A mother in Harris County, Texas, left her five-year-old child in the car for "several hours" on Monday, June 20, 2022, as she prepared for his older sister's birthday party under the assumption the boy was inside the house. The child was pronounced dead in the family's driveway upon the arrival of the Emergency Medical Services, Thomas M. Gilliland, senior deputy at the Harris County Sheriff's Office, told PEOPLE.
5-Year-Old Boy in Texas Dead After Mom Left Him in Hot Car for Hours While Preparing for Party pic.twitter.com/u6sUrOgH6i— People (@people) June 22, 2022
According to ABC13 KTRK, the mother had gone to the store earlier that day with her eight-year-old daughter and five-year-old son to prepare for the little girl's birthday party. When they came home, the mother and daughter got out of the car and started preparing for the party inside. However, the boy remained buckled in his seat for several hours before the family realized he was not inside. County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said: "[The mother was] excited, trying to get things together, and unfortunately this time the child did not make it out. Again, with the business of the activities that they were preparing for it took them a while to notice that the child wasn't in the house."
Gonzalez told reporters that although the five-year-old knew how to unbuckle his seat and let himself out, since the family was driving a rental vehicle while their normal car was being worked on that day, he probably wasn't familiar with the rental's locking mechanisms. The sheriff said that the vehicle didn't have any child safety locks turned on. According to The Washington Post, deputies from the Harris County Precinct 3 Constable's Office were dispatched to the 13700 block of Blair Hill Lane, about 25 miles northeast of downtown Houston, around 3:19 p.m.
The boy was pronounced dead on the scene, the sheriff revealed, but did not say whether the mother may face charges. The investigation is still open. The names of the child and his mother have not been revealed yet. "Homicide and Child Crimes-investigators were notified and responded to the scene," Gilliland said. "The case is still open and active, and investigators will meet with the Harris County District Attorney's Office to present their findings of the investigation." Under Texas law, it is illegal to leave a child alone in a car for more than five minutes, if the child is younger than 7 and is not accompanied by someone 14 or older.
Monday has been the hottest day in Houston this early in the summer since 2011, ABC News reported, with temperatures hitting a scorching 102 degrees. Children are at a higher risk of dying from heatstroke than adults as their body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult's, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
A 3-month-old Pennsylvania boy died after he was left in his parents' car "for several hours" on a day with a 92 degrees high, police say. https://t.co/cZBYfqd52W— NBC News (@NBCNews) June 20, 2022
On average, around 38 children under the age of 15 die of heatstroke each year from being left unattended in the car, according to the National Safety Council. 23 children died this way last year. In 2022, there have been six cases of a child dying in the car due to heat exposure so far. Earlier this month, a child in Pennsylvania died the same way. The three-month-old infant was left in the car for several hours on Thursday, June 16, 2022, and when police officers arrived at the scene, lifesaving measures failed and the child was pronounced dead on the scene. Homicide detectives were called and the matter is still under investigation, NBC News reported.