On what was said to be the warmest day of the year in Northeast Texas — hovering around 97 degrees, according to the National Weather Service — two children were found dead in a hot car on Friday afternoon. According to multiple news reports, the young children — identified as a 16-month-old boy and a 2-year-old girl — were found unresponsive by their mother at about 4 p.m. in Parker County, west of Fort Worth, after they disappeared from playing in a back room of their home.
According to the Star-Telegram, the mother had reported that the children “took off” and she began searching for them nearby. She then reportedly found the children locked inside “a small four-door vehicle,” which they reportedly had gotten into and locked by themselves.
Parker County Sheriff's Capt. Mark Arnett told CNN that according to the mother, one of the children had her cellphone and car keys. The mother then reportedly broke the car window, but it was too late as both children were already unresponsive.
At the moment, the mother has not been charged in their deaths, but the investigators are still trying to figure out how these young children locked themselves in the car.
"The question is, can a 2-year-old open a car door and a 2-year-old and a 1-year-old climb inside and lock it," Arnett told CNN. "In the course of the investigation, if charges are warranted, I'm sure the district attorney's office will bring them."
This tragedy serves a devastating reminder to parents about the dangers of this type of incident as their deaths adds to the 709 children who have died of heatstroke after being left in cars since 1998 — or one every nine days, according to NoHeatStroke.org. This year alone there have been nine reported deaths while there were 39 heat-related deaths in cars in 2016.
While the temperature outside may not be sweltering, NoHeatStroke.org says that heat inside a car can rise by 30 degrees in the matter of one hour. For example, if it's 80 degrees outside, the inside of a vehicle can reach 123 degrees in just 60 minutes.
And because children are more susceptible to temperature extremes and their health effects, hot cars are especially dangerous as kids are less able to regulate their body temperature, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
"Children can die when left in a closed car or truck even when the outside temperature is not that high," according to the AAP, adding that 80 degrees outside can be a potentially fatal temperature as a child left in a hot car can die of heat stroke very quickly.
With summer and hot temperatures approaching, it's important to be aware of these dangers and how to prevent any further accident from happening. For example, leave your purse or phone in the backseat of the car so you have another reason to check back there. Or always make sure the car doors are locked and car keys are out of sight of curious little ones so they can't find their way inside because in many cases, these are preventable tragedies.