FRANKFORT — The heat stroke death Saturday of a 2-year-old Louisville boy who was found alone in a car was a grim example as child advocates, Kentucky State Police and health officials reminded parents Monday that it's never OK to leave a child alone in a car.
Not even for a minute.
The death of Kenton Brown from apparent hyperthermia happened earlier in the year than any other Kentucky fatality involving a child left in a hot car, said Dr. Susan Pollack, coordinator of the Kentucky Safe Kids Coalition and a pediatrician at Kentucky Children's Hospital.
Pollack, speaking at a news conference on the back steps of the state Capitol, said the group had planned Monday's news conference about the dangers of leaving children in hot cars before Kenton death this weekend.
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Kenton's death was the third vehicular hyperthermia fatality this year in the United States. The two others occurred in Louisiana and Texas.
In 2010, when three Kentucky children died after being left in hot cars, the state was 11th in the nation in hot-car deaths. Across the country, 49 children died as a result of vehicular hyperthermia, the highest number ever. Kentucky has had a death related to vehicular hyperthermia every year since 2004, according to Safe Kids, a coalition aimed at improving child health in Kentucky.
"Three's too big of a number," said Lt. David Jude of the Kentucky State Police.
The majority of parents do not intentionally leave their children in cars. In about half of such deaths nationally, something in a caregiver's daily routine changes, and the caregiver forgets to drop off the child at day care or with another caregiver and leaves the child in the car, Pollack said.
She recommended putting an item in the back seat with the child — such as a brief case, purse or laptop computer — that a person must have to go to work. Some day care centers also have decided to call parents during hot weather if the child does not arrive at the normal time.
Some people leave their children in the car but do not realize how hot a car can get.
"If you crack the windows, it doesn't make it cooler," Pollack said.
Dr. William Hacker, the state health commissioner, said most parents don't realize that young children cannot regulate or adjust their body temperatures as adults do. And some people don't know that parked cars heat quickly in the sun.
"Cars can heat up very quickly," Hacker said.
One vehicular hyperthermia study found that a child can die in relatively mild temperatures of about 70 degrees when left in a car. The temperature inside a car can rise 20 degrees in 10 minutes during warm weather.
Other deaths can result when a child or toddler crawls into a car or a trunk and becomes trapped. "Keep your doors locked," Pollack said.
Anyone who intentionally leaves a child in a hot car can face a manslaughter charge if the child is younger than 8, Jude said.
Mollie Shouse, 28, the mother of Kenton Brown, has been charged with murder, and she faces drug-related charges. Louisville police have said they think Kenton was left in the car alone for several hours outside a Lyndon apartment building. The temperature in Louisville was in the mid-80s Saturday.
There have been multiple incidents of children dying in hot cars in Lexington. Last June, 5-month-old Holland Judy died after being left in a car on Candlelight Way. In June 2009, April Knight, 2, died after she was left in a car on North Upper Street.