A toddler has died after being left alone in a car for hours in Burnaby, B.C., a city immediately east of Vancouver.
Burnaby RCMP say the 16-month-old boy was discovered unconscious in a vehicle parked at Inman Avenue and Kingsway at about 5:45 p.m. PT on Thursday near Metrotown, a dense commercial and residential area of Burnaby.
The boy was taken to hospital, but could not be saved.
Police located the toddler’s father at the scene, and say both parents are co-operating in the investigation. Neither has been arrested.
Chief Supt. Deanne Burleigh called the incident an “extremely tragic event.”
She said the investigation is still in the early stages and officers are in the process of interviewing witnesses, family, neighbourhood residents and anyone else in the area.
She did not share many details about the investigation, including who found the toddler or who made the 911 call, or exactly how many hours the child was in the car.
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking,” Burleigh said. “I can’t imagine how the parents are coping.”
She said the parents are being supported by Victim Services and are surrounded by friends and family.
Burleigh emphasized the need for parents to be vigilant as temperatures rise over the next few days.
“It’s about not leaving children at any point unattended in a vehicle. Make sure you’ve delivered them where they need to be delivered,” Burleigh said.
“We’re [in] a heat wave right now. Please don’t leave your children unattended in a car, [at] any age.”
Most of B.C. is currently unseasonably warm, with temperatures 7 to 10 C above average in Metro Vancouver. The mercury reached a high of 21.4 C at Vancouver International Airport on Thursday, according to Environment Canada, and temperatures in Burnaby — several kilometres inland — were likely higher.
With direct sunlight, the temperature would likely have risen even higher inside a car.
The B.C. Coroners Service is also investigating.
Doctor advises memory aides
Dr. Erik Swartz, Vancouver Coastal Health and Providence Health Care’s head of pediatrics, explained that young children are particularly susceptible to overheating.
“First of all, the child can’t get out of the car themselves so that’s the obvious one,” Swartz said.
“Secondly a child’s body surface area is much smaller than an adult’s. So through perspiration they can’t drop their body temperature as fast as an adult could.”
Swartz said a child can’t be left alone in a car “for even a minute.”
He advises parents develop memory aides to remind them that the child is in the car.
“Whether that’s leaving your laptop or your cellphone, your handbag, your purse in the back of the car so you have to check the car, you must check the car, before you leave.”
He said in the U.S., about 40 to 50 children die in hot cars every year.