Baby Girl Dies in Hot SUV After Dad 'Inadvertently' Forgets Her While Running Errands

infant dies hot car
Fox 8

Police in Fairfax County, Virgina, are investigating the death of an infant who was left in a hot SUV on Friday. The 11-month-old died June 26 after her father accidentally left her in the vehicle in an alleged mixup.  As of this reporting, no charges have been filed against him.

  • Police arrived on the scene in Springfield, Virginia, about 5 p.m.

    Officers found the girl unresponsive in the SUV when they got there, according to WUSA

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  • The girl was rushed to the hospital where she was pronounced dead.

    Speaking with the news station, a spokesperson for the Fairfax Police Department said an initial investigation revealed that the girl's father, who has not been named, "inadvertently left [her] in a car for an extended amount of time."

  • The girl's father left her in the back seat of an SUV at their home while he used a second car to go run errands.

    It was only after he came home and used the SUV to drive to a day care to pick up another child that he realized the 11-month-old was still in the back seat.

  • A medical examiner has yet to determine the official cause of death.

    Sadly, cases like this happen often. Consumer Reports spoke with David Diamond, a professor of psychology at the University of South Florida in Tampa, who said forgetting a child is often not a question of negligence -- it's the result of a memory problem.

    "The most common response is that only bad or negligent parents forget kids in cars," Diamond explained. "It's a matter of circumstances. It can happen to everyone."

    Diamond noted that there are two parts to a person's memory -- the prospective and the semantic. Prospective memory helps us remember to do something in the future, whereas semantic memory allows people to drive from home to work while on "autopilot."

    The two often work together when we make changes to our routines, but if we're stressed or distracted, our working memory can sometimes fail, which is when catastrophe can strike.

    "The habit brain system is a great convenience that allows us to go into autopilot," he said. "The beauty of it is that we don't have to remember every turn, but the problem is that it's actually guiding our behavior. When it guides our behavior, it suppresses the other part of the brain that is supposed to remind us of additional information.

    "We have to accept the fact that our brain multitasks. And as a part of that multitasking, the awareness of a child can be lost," he continued. "We have to accept that the human memory is flawed. That includes when loving, attentive parents lose awareness of their children when they are in a car."

  • Additionally, leaving children in a vehicle on a hot day can be dangerous.

    WUSA reported that the temperature was about 87 or 88 degrees on the day that the girl died, but no matter what the temperature is like outside, as Kidsandcars.org noted, it's always dangerous to leave a child in a vehicle alone. 

    A car can heat up to "125 degrees in minutes," according to the website, and "80% of the increase in temperature happens in the first 10 minutes."

    Because children's bodies are so much smaller than adults, they can overheat three to five times faster than adults.

    The organization recommends parents make a habit of opening the back door every time they park "to ensure no one is left behind."

    "To enforce this habit, place an item that you can't start your day without in the back seat -- employee badge, laptop, phone, handbag, etc.," the website continued.

  • The infant's death marks the sixth hot car death to happen in 2020.

    That's a much lower number than experts usually see by this point in the year, but that is a result of people staying home because of the coronavirus.

    "We are currently much lower than the average number of hot car deaths for this time of year due to the pandemic, but we are concerned that the numbers will increase as routines continue to shift and families begin going back to work," Amber Rollins, director of KidsAndCars.org, told WWBT. "About 56% of hot car deaths are the result of children being unknowingly left in vehicles."

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