Baby found in parked SUV in Santee was left alone for 9 hours: ME's office

A child dies in similar circumstances nationally about 37 times per year, advocacy groups like No Heat Stroke report

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Authorities Monday publicly identified an infant who died two weeks ago after being left in a parked SUV outside her family's eastern San Diego County home for about nine hours.

A family member made an emergency call shortly after midnight June 13 to report discovering 2-month-old Diana Aleman Roman unconscious in the vehicle in the 10000 block of Settle Road in Santee, according to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.

Paramedics took the baby -- who is believed to have been left alone in the SUV since about 3 p.m. the previous day -- to Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa, where she was pronounced dead, Lt. Lon Nguyen said.

The child's cause of death is under investigation. It remained unclear this week whether anyone might face criminal charges over the fatality.

Heat stroke and child deaths

Experts, including those in the advocacy group No Heat Stroke, report that a child dies in similar circumstances about 37 times a year nationally. Before the pandemic, when people were driving more, it happened at about double that rate.

"We have powerful brain-autopilot brain-memory system that gets us to do things automatically and, in that process, we lose awareness of other things in our mind, including that there's a child in the car," said Dr. David Diamon, a professor of psychology at the University of Southern Florida.

Even on days with mild temperatures, the heat inside a vehicle can reach dangerous levels within an hour, posing significant health risks to small children or pets left inside.

"Children aren't able to efficiently regulate their body temperature, and their bodies can heat up three to five times faster than adults,” said Emily Thomas, PH.D, with Consumer Reports.

Detectives said first-responders rushed the baby to Sharp Grossmont Hospital, where she later died. The sheriff's Child Abuse Unit is investigating the death. At this point, the parents are not facing any charges.

NBC 7's Jackie Crea spoke to neighbors about the tragedy.
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