Toddler Dies After Sitting in Hot Car for 5 Hours While Mother Bought Cocaine: Police

April 17, 2019 Updated: April 17, 2019

A Florida woman was arrested and charged with manslaughter after police said she left her child in a hot car for about five hours while she went to get cocaine.

Emily Hartman left her 14-month-old child in a car on April 3 while she went to go drink at a bar for about an hour. She then took the child to several other places.

Hartman left the child in the car seat overnight and the next morning, she went to visit a friend, the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement obtained by WESH. The child was left in the car, which was parked in the sun, for five to six hours.

During that time, Hartman is believed to have picked up cocaine she was planning to sell.

When she returned to the car, she noticed that her son was profusely sweating, Melbourne police Lt. Trevor Shaffer told WFTV. She drove him to a nearby fire station.

Emergency crews said the toddler was suffering from a heat-related illness, and they took him to a hospital.

“I spoke to one of our guys and said, ‘Hey, he’s having active seizures, we need to get him some medication on board,’ and at that time one of the other medics was starting an IV in the kid’s arm,” Fire Department Chief Phil Leitz told WKMG.

The child died two days later.

Leitz said firefighters asked Hartman what happened. “She was pretty upset. We asked her where she’d been and what she had been doing with the child. She said she had been running some errands and stuff like that,” he said.

In addition to manslaughter by child neglect, Hartman was charged with possession of cocaine with intent and possession of cannabis.

Kids in Cars

On average, according to advocacy website Kids and Cars, 37 children die from heat-related deaths after being trapped inside vehicles per year.

“Even the best of parents or caregivers can unknowingly leave a sleeping baby in a car; and the end result can be injury or even death,” the site stated.

In 2016, 39 children across the United States died because they were left inside a hot car, according to the website No Heat Stroke. In a 19-year-period, more than 700 children died of heatstroke inside cars, and 54 percent of caretakers said they “forgot” that the child was there.

“It doesn’t have to be a blazing hot day for these to happen,” Jan Null, a San Jose State professor and former meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told the San Jose Mercury News. “They can happen anywhere, and happen to anyone.”

Null told SFGate that the temperatures inside vehicles heat up rapidly, with the air rising about 19 degrees beyond the outside temperature in the first 10 minutes and rising another 10 degrees in the next 10 minutes. Additionally, Null said the bodies of small children heat up three to five times faster compared to adults. “So, while you and I could be in a car that’s, say, 109 degrees, an infant or small child would be to the point of entering heat stroke,” he said.

The U.S. National Safety Council advises parents and caregivers to stick to a routine and avoid distractions to reduce the risk of forgetting a child, noting that even on relatively mild days the temperatures inside vehicles can reach life-threatening levels in minutes.

“Keep car doors locked so children cannot gain access, and teach them that cars are not play areas. Place a purse, briefcase or even a left shoe in the back seat to force you to take one last glance,” the council stated.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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