RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Child awareness groups are urging parents to check their backseats as they get out of the car following the death of a 17-month-old Henrico boy.
Goochland Sheriff's Deputies said Riaan Gondesi, was left in his father's car parked on the uncovered deck of a parking garage Wednesday afternoon.
The dad arrived at work around 9:30 a.m. and apparently forgot to drop his son off at daycare.
"This case is still under investigation," said Sheriff James Agnew. "Currently, there are no charges. Once we have finished [our investigation] we will present our findings to the Commonwealth's Attorney. His office will decide whether or not charges are pressed."
KidsAndCars.org director Amber Rollins said Virginia is 10th in the nation for child hot car deaths, and this was the 31st death nationwide.
"When a child dies everybody is angry," she said. "Everybody is upset. Everybody is looking for answers, and I would just urge those people to search for some compassion."
In May, four-month-old twins died after they were left in the back of an SUV in Chesterfield. No charges have been filed in that case, according to the Chesterfield County Police spokeswoman.
"People are almost always charged in these cases," said Betty Layne DesPortes, an NBC12 legal analyst.
DesPortes said in most cases the person is charged with felony child neglect and/or involuntary manslaughter.
"The point of charging someone criminally is to deter that behavior in the future," Rollins said. "It isn't doing anything but further traumatizing these families that have already been through literally the worst thing anybody could deal with."
Authorities gather information as part of the investigation and then hand their findings to the Commonwealth's Attorney.
"The Commonwealth's Attorney will look at whether the person was distracted, on a new routine, on medication, or in a rare situation, whether the conduct was intentional," DesPortes said.
"Our brains are human, they're not perfect and they can fail us," Rollins said. "Especially when we're fatigued, when we have changes in our routine, we're stressed out and going in a million different directions."
Since 1990, there have been 26 fatalities related to child hot car deaths in Virginia, according to KidsAndCars.org.
"These cases are tragic, and preventable," DesPortes said. "Without a doubt, the loss of the child will affect the person and family profoundly. In all likelihood, the person will have to deal with criminal charges as well."
With highs reaching into the upper 90s this week, area dispatch centers are also getting calls for service related to children in hot cars.
The Chesterfield County Emergency Communications Center received two calls between 10 a.m. Sunday and 10 a.m. Thursday. Henrico County Emergency Communications Center got two calls during that same timeframe, but one call was canceled before authorities arrived. The Richmond Department of Emergency Communications received three calls during that timeframe.
"Quite honestly, I'm surprised it's not more," Rollins said.
There is technology available to remind drivers about children in car seats before exiting the vehicle.
CYBEX, a Boston, MA based company has created a car seat with a sensor aimed at fighting the risk of heat-related vehicular deaths. The car seat is called the Sirona M with SensorSafe 2.0.
According to the product details, the car seat integrated important safety technology into the chest clip of the car seat to alert the driver when unsafe conditions arise. Those alerts are provided through an installed vehicle receiver and the caregiver's smartphone.
An alert will be sent when:
- The driver accidentally leaves the child behind in the car
- A child unbuckles themselves while the car is in motion
- The back seat becomes too hot or too cold for the child’s comfort
- A child has been seated in their car seat too long
There are several other mobile apps that will help you avoid a potentially deadly situation.
"You know what, it's absolutely necessary," Rollins said. "People are aware of hot car deaths, they know that they happen, but nobody believes that it will happen to them."
Precious Cargo works through Bluetooth when its activated and the app send you a message asking if your baby is in the car. When you first enter the vehicle you will type in your child's name, and when the engine stops, you get an alert reminding you about the baby.
Another app, Kars 4 Kids Safety, includes a customized alarm that goes off whenever you and your phone exit the car, reminding you to get the baby out too.
The Waze navigational app also comes with a baby reminder feature.
"We just have to keep fighting every day to prevent these tragedies," Rollin said. "Look before you lock. They're 100% preventable."
On average, 37 children die from vehicular heat stroke deaths every year, one every nine days, according to KidsAndCars.org.
In 2017, the agency reported 43 deaths across the nation.
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