After the death of infant twins who were left in a car for nine hours, Sheriff Leon Lott said people across Richland County were impacted by the case.
Richland County Coroner Naida Rutherford said her office received hundreds of calls from people concerned about about the children’s’ deaths.
The children’s relatives are devastated and will live with the tragedy for the rest of their lives, Lott said. Their only comfort can come from the prayers of the community, he said.
Some parents commenting on the story say this could never happen to them. But nothing seemed unusual about the father who forgot his children.
The deaths were ruled an accident, a slip of the mind by a father burdened by the expectations of his job, according to Lott and Rutherford. The dad simply forgot to drop his kids off at day care under the pressures of work.
Here are some tips to avoid leaving your children in your car from those who study and investigate the issue.
Kidsandcars.org, which tracks deaths of children left in vehicles, gives these strategies:
Never leave children alone in or around cars, not even for a minute.
Open your vehicle’s back doors every time you park to make sure no child is in the backseat.
Place a diaper bag or another item on the front passenger seat as a visual cue that a child is in the backseat.
Place an indispensable item, such as a work ID, laptop, phone or handbag, in the backseat.
Arrange for your child care provider, such as a day care or school, to call if your child doesn’t arrive as usual.
Be clear and confirm plans on who is taking a child where and who is putting and getting the child out of the vehicle.
Clearly announce and confirm who is getting each child out of the vehicle.
Use businesses’ drive-thru services when available and pay for gas at the pump.
Be especially careful during busy times, schedule changes and periods of crisis or holidays.
“This is when many tragedies occur,“ kidsandcar.org says. “Miscommunication can lead to thinking someone else removed the child.”
Parents should watch out for their children getting into parked cars as well. Kidsandcars.org gives this advice:
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.
Use childproofing knob covers and door alarms to prevent children from exiting your home unnoticed.
Teach children to honk the horn or turn on hazard lights 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 carefully, even if they’re locked.
Coroner Rutherford said some vehicles have a rear-seat-occupied warning. While the beeping noise might be annoying, do not disable it, Rutherford said.
Don’t ever leave your kids in your car even on a cool day, investigators said. On an 80-degree day, the temperature inside a car can reach 120 degrees.
If you see a child left alone in a car, kidsandcar.org encourages calling 911.