San Jose police are investigating the death of a 9-month-old baby after they said the father forgot to drop him off at the babysitter's before he went to work.
"People always want to vilify these parents," Janette Fennell, president of Kids And Cars, told NBC Bay Area by phone from Philadelphia when she heard the news. "But 90 percent of the time, they are not bad people or drug addicts. They are parents who love their children."
She added that this baby death is the first of its kind this year in the country. On average, 38 children die from heat stroke every year after being left in a car nationwide, her organization said. Last year, however, the heat stroke car death toll hit 44.
Sgt. Heather Randol said police received a report on Wednesday about 7:15 p.m. about an "unresponsive" baby in a car in the 3700 block of Payne Avenue. Police arrived, and the baby was declared dead a short time later. Randol said the father was supposed to drop off the baby at the babysitter's house before he went to work but forgot.
Instead, Randol said he parked his car on the street with the baby strapped in his car seat and went to work. At the end of his work day, he returned to his car to discover his baby was unconscious.
Yousif Njimeh told NBC Bay Area that the father worked for his brother at his vending machine company, Star Vending. The father's usual routine was to park his silver Honda SUV on Payne Avenue and then take off in the company vending machine truck. The father, who had two other children, worked from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Njimeh said.
Njimeh was actually repairing his car Wednesday near the father's parked Honda. He said he had no idea that a baby was inside; he didn't hear or see anything. The Honda's windows were tinted.
When he saw the father return to the car after work, Njimeh said he was "sobbing uncontrollably."
The father has not been arrested. The Santa Clara County Coroner's Office did not identify the baby.
Wednesday's temperatures in San Jose reached 81, and Fennell noted that a baby younger than a year old would not be able to tolerate that heat for very long.
In addition, since the baby was so young, he would have been in a rear-facing car seat, which makes it much more difficult for a driver to actually see if a child is inside or not.
More than 33 percent of the heat stroke car deaths involve children younger than one, Fennell said, often because they are harder to see.
Without knowing specifics of the case, Fennell added that the number one reason for parents who inadvertently forget their children in cars is a change in their daily routines.
Fennell also offered two quick tips to remember that your child is in the car: Leave something like your wallet or work badge next to your baby, so that when you head to work or home, you can't get inside without them. And tell the babysitter or daycare center to call you if you are late bringing in your child.
More tips can be found at KidsAndCars.org.