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Southern Utah infant dies after being left in hot car

Published: Friday, Aug. 1 2014 4:10 p.m. MDT

Updated: Friday, Aug. 1 2014 8:53 p.m. MDT

An 11-month-old girl has died after she was found in a hot car Friday in Hurricane.

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HURRICANE, Washington County — An 11-month-old Hurricane girl died Friday after she was found in a hot car.

Police were called just after 1 p.m. and told the infant had been left in the car and was unresponsive, Hurricane Police Sgt. Brandon Buell said.

The girl had been left in her car seat in the vehicle, which was not running, for a "substantial period of time," Buell said. A family member was involved.

The child wasn't breathing when she was found, and dispatchers were told CPR was in progress as medical personnel travelled to the scene, Buell said. The child was taken by medical helicopter in extremely critical condition to Dixie Regional Medical Center where she died.

Police did not specify who made the call or the status of the child's parents. The temperature in Hurricane at 1 p.m. was 90 degrees, according to KSL-TV, with the high for the day reaching 97 degrees.

An autopsy has been ordered, and police are investigating the death, Buell said.

No new information, including the child's name, is expected to be released until Monday as investigators await autopsy results and work with the Washington County Attorney's Office, Buell said.

"We are saddened at the death of this infant child, and our condolences go out to the family," Buell said in a news release Friday.

The girl's death comes one day after a nationwide awareness push about the dangers hot weather. As of Thursday, National Heatstroke Prevention Day, 19 children had died of heat stroke in 2014, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The campaign turned to social media, using hashtags to remind drivers to #checkforbaby and warning that #heatstrokekills.

Representatives from Primary Children's Hospital confirmed Friday the girl's death is the first hot car death in Utah since 2008.

In a live demonstration on KSL-TV Thursday, Salt Lake City Fire Capt. Marc Morger urged Utahns to call 911 if they encounter a child in a hot vehicle. They should then look around for the vehicle's owner to unlock the door.

"You want to visualize the occupant, making sure they're not in any distress," Morger said. "If they are in distress, we'd like you to break the window."

A car window can be broken by striking the corner with a window punch, a small tool that can be carried in a car or purse, he said. Under good Samaritan laws, a person who breaks out a car window to help a child in distress would not face criminal charges, Morger said.

Charles Pruitt, an emergency room doctor at Primary Children's Hospital, said his heart breaks when he hears of a child left in a hot car, a call that he estimates the Unified Fire Department in Salt Lake County gets up to 1,000 times each year. Some of those children end up in his care.

Children can suffer permanent damage in minutes, Pruitt said.

"Symptoms of heat stroke can begin at about 105 to 107 degrees. And if you can imagine a child that you've ever seen with a high fever, they're very irritable. They cry. They're fussy," he said. "It gets much worse, unfortunately. The brain starts to heat up and the child becomes inconsolable, and that can lead to seizures."

As the child remains in the heat, he or she will become lethargic.

"They can't be aroused, and unfortunately death is not far at that point," Pruitt said.

He reminded Utahns it's a misdemeanor in the state to leave children in hot cars. The temperature inside of a vehicle can rise 19 degrees in 10 minutes or less, he said.

"It's just not safe, even if you only think you're going to be gone for a few minutes. Sometimes that few minutes turns into more than a few minutes. That simple errand turns into a long line at the store," Pruitt said. "Please, don't ever leave your child alone in a vehicle."

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com, Twitter: McKenzieRomero

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