Tenth child this year dies in hot car, outpacing last year's numbers

A Florida toddler has become the 10th child to die in a hot car in the U.S. this year, outpacing the number of such tragedies during the same time period last year.

Three-year-old Sholom Tauber died Monday after his father left him in a car outside the preschool where he and his wife work in Miami Gardens, police said.

Sholom’s father’s LinkedIn page lists him as the technology development and faculty trainer at the daycare, called the Lubavitch Educational Center.

Police will forward the case to prosecutors who will decide whether charges are appropriate. Oftentimes in such cases, prosecutors declined to file charges because they’re mostly accidental.

So far this year, at least 10 children have died in hot cars. In the same time period last year, seven children had died in hot cars. Although this year’s numbers are up, they’re far below the record years of 2018 and 2019, when 21 and 30 children died in hot cars through mid-July, respectively, according to data kept by Kids and Car Safety.

One of the biggest problems driving hot car deaths is the fact that many parents don’t think it could happen to them, said Amber Rollins, a spokeswoman at Kids and Car Safety.

“People think that there’s just absolutely no way under any condition that this could happen, that someone could actually unknowingly leave their child in their car,” she said. “They think, ‘This must be a monster.'”

“It can happen to anybody,'” she added.

Hot car deaths declined during the pandemic but experts fear they’ll return to the record levels of more than 50 deaths annually in 2018 and 2019.

In hopes of spreading awareness about the problem and how people are still leaving children in hot cars, USA TODAY has compiled details in of the 10 hot car deaths we’ve confirmed this year.

While activists and lawmakers are working on requiring car companies to integrate technology to prevent hot car deaths, a permanent solution could still take years. In the meantime, Rollins said it’s up to parents and caregivers to make sure they never make the worst mistake of their lives.


What happened: A father left his 3-year-old son in the car after driving himself and his other children to the Lubavitch Educational Center, a preschool in Miami Gardens, Florida.

How it happened: It appears to have been an accident.

The result: Too early to say.

The takeaway: One of Rollins’ biggest tips is for parents to create a visual reminder in the front seat that a young child is in the back.

“Put the diaper bag in the front seat.” Even better, parents can keep a stuffed animal in the back seat and every time they put their child in the back, they can bring the stuffed animal to the front. “Do it every time and there’s much less chance that this could happen to you,” Rollins said.


What happened: A father left his 1-year-old in the car while he went to work at a manufacturing plant in Mebane, North Carolina. It’s unclear how long the baby was in the car. Arriving officers performed CPR but it was too late.

How it happened: Police have not said.

The result: Too early to say.

The takeaway: A visual reminder in the front seat that the child was in the car could have helped.


What happened: A 30-year-old woman in Danielsville in northeastern Georgia told authorities she accidentally left one of her children in the back of her car when she went to work at Walgreens. The 1-year-old was in the car for about four hours before his mother found him and called 911. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

How it happened: The mother told police she would typically drop off her two children at separate day care centers. She dropped one child off before work and didn’t realize she didn’t stop at the second day care before arriving to work.

The result: Police say evidence will be turned over to the Northern Circuit District Attorney’s Office to determine if any charges are warranted.  

The takeaway: A visual reminder of the child also could have helped in this case.


What happened: A 37-year-old Virginia father apparently forgot to take his 18-month-old son to day care and instead went to work in metropolitan Richmond. He found the boy after he had been left in the hot car for several hours, then drove home, brought the boy inside and walked into the woods behind his house and fatally shot himself, according to police.

When police arrived shortly after based on information they got from the man’s family members, they found the toddler dead and then his father’s body.

The takeaway: “This is a horrible tragedy on so many levels, and our hearts go out to the family and friends that are going to deal with this, but we would be remiss in not taking the opportunity for people to take this moment and realize how important it is to check your vehicles,” said Lt. Col. Chris Hensley of Chesterfield County Police.

Hot car death: Virginia toddler dies after being left inside hot car, father dies by suicide, police say


What happened: A Georgia grandmother took her 3-year-old grandson and his three sisters to church and then to Wendy’s before returning home on Sunday. She realized the boy was missing nearly three hours later, and he was found soon after still strapped in his car seat, Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan told ABC News.

How it happened: The boy’s grandmother didn’t realize he was left in the car.

The result: It’s unclear whether the case will be forwarded to prosecutors for consideration of charges.

The takeaway: “It sounds kind of silly but do a roll call,” Rollins said. “Anytime you’ve got multiple children there’s always chaos. Someone’s throwing a fit, something is getting spilled, there’s so much going on.”

So often with multiple children where there are older siblings, an adult assumes they all piled out together. “By the time they realize the baby’s not sleeping in the house it’s too late. Look before you lock,” Rollins adds.


What happened: A 5-year-old boy died in the Houston area after being left in the car by his mother after she took him and his 8-year-old sister shopping before the girl’s birthday party. Two to three hours after arriving home on the day that topped 100 degrees, the mother began looking for the boy, eventually finding him buckled inside the car and unresponsive. She called 911 and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

How it happened: The boy’s mother said she thought both kids got out of the car on their own.

The result?: Investigators said they would meet with the district attorney’s office to present their findings.

The takeaway: This case is a prime example of a parent not in a routine and distracted by the logistics and excitement of a birthday party. This is another case in which a roll call or a visual reminder of the child could have helped.


What happened: A 3-month-old baby was left in his father’s minivan in suburban Pittsburgh. Police have said very little about the case.

How it happened: Police have not said.

Was anyone punished: Police say detectives were “working to confirm the timeline of events through surveillance video in the area. They are also downloading and reviewing data from the vehicle’s onboard computer.” The Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office will decide whether charges are appropriate.

The takeaway: So far police haven’t released enough details to identify tips to avoid what happened in this case. They declined to answer further questions from USA TODAY.

MAY 20

What happened: A woman left her 10-month-old daughter in her car seat inside her car for several hours just outside of Houston in Pearland. When she remembered the girl was there, she returned to the car and found her unresponsive. The girl was pronounced dead at a hospital soon after the mother took her there.

How it happened: Police have not said how the woman came to leave her daughter in the car.

The result: Police said the case would be referred to a grand jury.

The takeaway: So far police haven’t released enough details to identify tips to avoid what happened in this case.

MAY 19

What happened: A day care worker who picked up 1-year-old Carson Flowers in Memphis, Tennessee, and took him to the facility left him in the vehicle for more than six hours. He was rushed to a hospital in critical condition before dying.

How it happened: Police say the day care worker said she accidentally left the baby in the car. They briefly detained her and another daycare worker for questioning.

The result: The day care, Education is the Key Children’s Center, is now closed. Prosecutors are considering whether to file charges.

The takeaway: In a statement, Carson’s family said that “things like this happen every summer, locally, nationally, and this year it hit close home. Moving forward, we ask all day cares, to please, please, please check your vehicles/back seats, to ensure that every child makes it back home to their loving families and are able to have a fair chance at life. We hope that Carson’s passing is a wake-up call, for day cares to tighten up on their pickup and drop-offs system!”


What happened: Davied Whatley left his 8-month-old daughter, Nova Grace Whatley-Trejo, in his car as he went to the local police department in Snellville, Georgia, to retrieve some guns that officers had previously taken from him. Police ran a background check, found a warrant for a misdemeanor probation violation and arrested Whatley.

How it happened: Police say Whatley, 20, never mentioned leaving his daughter in the car while he was booked and processed in jail. The child’s grandmother, Leticia Padilla, told WSB-TV that Whatley told police Nova was in the car but they didn’t believe him. Snellville Detective Jeff Manley said at a news conference that he believes Whatley told the grandmother about the baby “sometime later” in the day and that she found Nova up to eight hours after she was left in the car.

The result: Whatley has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and has a bond hearing set for June 30. His defense attorney, Stacy Levy, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

What’s the takeaway: “There’s never a safe amount of time to leave a child in a hot car,” Rollins said. Even five minutes is too long.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hot car deaths 2022: How many US kids have died in cars this summer?

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