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Child in car dies from heat

May 30, 1998|By MARLO BARNHART

A toddler who climbed into the family car and closed the door Saturday afternoon in Halfway died from the heat, according to a medical examiner.

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The boy, aged 2 years and 10 months, was found after he had been in the car from 30 to 90 minutes.

"He had only just learned how to open doors," said Washington County Sheriff's Deputy Pete Lazich.

The temperature inside the car was field-tested with a household thermometer in excess of 120 degrees, Lazich said.

Halfway ambulance personnel were dispatched to the 10700 block of Clinton Avenue at 3:41 p.m.

"We first got a call that a child was missing," Lazich said. Within minutes of that call, an older sibling of the child found the boy in the family's Ford Taurus station wagon, Lazich said.

The child was taken to Washington County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 4:22 p.m. of cardiac arrest, said hospital spokesman Beth Kirkpatrick.

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The death is being ruled accidental, Lazich said.

"This was a healthy child," said Dr. Edward Ditto, who was called in as medical examiner. "He died of hyperthermia, which means an elevation of body temperature."

Ditto explained that children are especially susceptible to hyperthermia because they are small and it doesn't take long for their temperature to rise well above normal to fatal levels.

"Infants cannot tolerate high temperatures," Ditto said.

"There is a very upset family here," Lazich said, adding that the name of the child wouldn't be released.

While hitting no records for high temperatures, several area agencies reported highs of 90 degrees under hazy but cloudless skies.

Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer recorded a high of 90 degrees at 3:55 p.m.

A high of 90 also was reported at the R.C. Willson Water Plant in Williamsport.

Maryland State Police listed a high of 88.5 degrees, while Washington County Regional Airport reported 89 degrees.

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