By Tamas Mondovics
“This is everyone’s nightmare,” Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer, Larry McKinnon told reporters shortly after a two-year-old Brandon toddler, Jacob Manchego was found unconscious, in a car at the Oak Park Shopping Center at the corner of W. Lumsden Road and Kings Ave. in Brandon.
The all too familiar incident is another grim reminder of the dangers of an overheated car and the importance of vigilance not only during the summer months, but year round.
Temperatures in the Tampa area reached the upper-80s the day of the incident, tying records for this time of year, authorities said.
According to investigators, Manchego’s 21-year-old half sister, Fiorella Vanessa Silva-Tello left the little boy locked inside her gray Chevy Equinox at around 9 a.m. after she arrived to work at BFF Kidz day care center, at 733 W. Lumsden Road.
Five hours later, she returned to her car and discovered Jacob unresponsive inside.
McKinnon said Silva-Tello removed the child from the vehicle and carried him to a dialysis center in the shopping center where first aid was administered.
Paramedics with Hillsborough County Fire Rescue arrived and transported Jacob to Brandon Regional Hospital where he later died.
“We see this happen over and over again,” said McKinnon visibly upset, adding, “You have to ask yourself why does this continue to happen and it’s just hard to say.”
While no investigation can bring Jacob back, or take away the pain each family member have to live with, paying more attention to heeding reminders of the dangers of leaving children in parked cars, and raising awareness can be done by all.
Many of such reminders are not hard to find including the one posted on the window at the BFF Kidz day care center, which reads: “Look before you lock. Never leave a child alone in a car.”
According to experts, grim statistics forecast dozens of over-heated parked-car casualties across the U.S. each summer.
The top ten states for such deaths include: Texas, Florida, California, Arizona, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Virginia, and Oklahoma.
International Parking Institute (IPI) Communications noted that while dozens of children die annually in this tragic way, it is most often due to being forgotten in the backseat by a busy parent or a caregiver.
A car’s interior can reportedly rise 43 degrees in an hour and easily top 123 degrees on an 80-degree day, even with the windows “cracked” open. Within minutes, such sweltering environment can turn lethal for a child whose body temperature rises several times faster than an adult’s.
In a way of offering support, Mckinnon urged residents to take some time and review basic safety tips, including:
• “Look when you Lock.” – Open the rear door of your car or turn around in your seat to look behind you just to make sure everyone is out of the car before you lock. Try to make a habit of doing this even when traveling alone (and it could always help you to remember your purse, sunglasses, or something else, too.)
• Keep something important in the back seat – Put your purse or wallet on the seat next to your car-seat. This gives you another reason to turn around and look back, helping to build up the habit of looking.
• Always lock the doors – This can help prevent curious kids from getting in a car and getting locked inside.
• Keep keys and fobs out of reach – Hang your keys and fobs in a cabinet or put them somewhere that children can’t get to them.
• If you see a child in car alone, call 911 – Even on a 75 degree day, the inside of car can reach 100 degrees within 10 minutes, and a child’s body can overheat three to five times faster than an adult. If you see a child left in a car alone, call 911 for assistance. It’s far better to be safe than sorry.
For more information please visit NHTSA.org or safercar.gov/heatstroke, or visit www.parking.org.