Neighbors, family distraught after 2-month-old Santee girl dies after being left in hot car

At this point, the parents are not facing any charges

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People in an East County neighborhood are dealing with the tragic death of a 2-month-old who was left in a car for several hours last week.

San Diego Sheriff's Department is investigating the child's death, which took place June 13 in Santee.

On Tuesday, NBC 7 spoke briefly with the distraught father, who declined to be interviewed.

A neighbor spoke anonymously with NBC 7 about the night the tragedy occurred and provided a recording captured that night by their Ring doorbell camera. In the video, multiple police officers and first-responders are seen arriving at the home on Settle Road, with the flashing lights and chaos of police and ambulances giving a glimpse into the unfolding tragedy.

“They were in there a minute, two minutes maybe," the neighbor told NBC 7. "Then they left, so we knew something bad happened."

The San Diego Sheriff’s Department said deputies responded to a 911 call early June 13 and found the baby girl unresponsive in an SUV outside of a home. Investigators said the infant was left in the hot vehicle for several hours.

“I can’t fathom leaving a kid in a car," the neighbor said. "We’ve seen it happen every single year, we see a child lose their life."

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.

Editor's note: a previous version of the story stated the average number of heatstroke deaths of children in vehicles is about a dozen per year. It has been updated to 37 per year, according to the No Heat Stroke organization.

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