Fifteen children have died from heatstroke in the U.S. this year as a result of being left in hot cars – and it’s not even July yet.
Three of the deaths have occurred just since last Saturday, and extreme heat is expected in the South and parts of the Midwest on Sunday heading into the Fourth of July.
The latest hot-car death came Thursday evening in Morristown, Tennessee, when a 3-year-old boy was found in a minivan after he had been reported missing since 4 p.m. The temperature had reached 90 degrees.
“Officers found the child deceased on the floorboard of a minivan that was parked on the property,” the city of Morristown wrote in a statement on Facebook. “Investigators believe, at this time, the child entered the vehicle without anyone knowing and became trapped.”
Morristown police spokeswoman Michelle Jones said police “do not have any evidence of foul play at this time. It appears to be a tragic accident.”
On average, 38 children under the age of 15 die each year after being left in cars during hot weather, which turns the vehicle into a virtual oven. More than 800 children have died in hot cars since 1998.
The annual number has increased each year since 2016, when 39 children died from heatstroke in hot cars. In 2017, there were 43 deaths, and in 2018 there were 52, the highest ever recorded.
Figures, cited by the National Safety Council, are compiled by Jan Null, a meteorologist with the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science at San Jose State University who has tracked U.S. child vehicular heatstroke deaths since 1998.
Last Saturday, a 1-year-old boy died after being left inside a hot car in Galveston, Texas, for about five hours in a parking lot of a restaurant where his father was working.
A parent left the child in the family’s Chevrolet Tahoe before work at 11 a.m., the Galveston Police Department told The Houston Chronicle. When the parent returned around 4 p.m., the boy was unresponsive.
The temperature reached a high of 92 in Galveston that day. Experts said the air temperature in the truck likely exceeded 135 degrees.
No one has been charged in either the Texas or Tennessee deaths.
The Galveston death was the third hot-car death in three consecutive days in Texas after a 4-year-old boy and an 11-month-old girl in other parts of the state died after being left in sweltering vehicles. Texas records more heatstroke car deaths than any other state.
Read more at USAToday.com.