By Katya Yefimova and Jackson Holtz Herald Writers
LYNNWOOD — One of the first days of spring sunshine brought tragedy to a Lynnwood parking lot Monday.
Police are investigating the death of a baby boy who was found in a car.
The 1-year-old child was left alone in a car seat for hours in the parking lot of Sunrise of Lynnwood, an assisted living center in the 18600 block of 60th Avenue W., said Shannon Sessions, Lynnwood police spokeswoman.
The boy’s mother, a 21-year-old Everett woman, works at the nursing home. Sessions said the boy may have been in the car from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“We don’t know if she left him so she could go to work” or if she forgot, Sessions said.
The woman went to her car about 2 p.m., realized the boy was unresponsive, and carried him into the nursing home’s lobby to seek medical help. The child was dead when police and firefighters arrived.
Detectives were at the scene Monday afternoon, interviewing the mother and awaiting a search warrant allowing them to examine the car.
It is against state law and Lynnwood municipal code to leave a child under 7 unattended in a vehicle. Somebody at least 12 must be present.
“As the days are starting to heat up, this is a reminder not to leave children in the vehicle,” Sessions said.
Police on Monday did not immediately know if the car’s windows were up or down before help was summoned. The Snohomish County medical examiner will determine why the boy died, she added.
The thermometer reached 69 degrees Monday at Paine Field, just north of Lynnwood, the National Weather Service in Seattle said. The temperature inside a parked vehicle would be much higher.
“We are investigating everything surrounding” the death, Sessions said.
Experts said even if the windows were down, temperatures in the small car likely would have soared Monday to dangerous levels. They warn that children are particularly at risk of fatal overheating if left unattended in a car.
“Unfortunately this happens more than people think,” said Kristen Thornstenson, a spokeswoman for Snohomish County SafeKIDS.
Since 1998, about 415 children have died nationwide after being left inside a car, said California meteorologist Jan Null. He’s known nationally as an expert on the topic and shares many of his findings on the Web site of Golden Gate Weather Services.
The boy’s death Monday likely will be the second death of a child left in a car in the U.S. this year, Null said. A 1-year-old boy died March 9 in North Carolina.
Temperatures inside a car can soar 40 degrees in an hour, he said. The heat will continue to build the longer the car sits in the sun. Interior temperatures in a sun-baked car can reach 150 degrees.
“People don’t really realize how much risk there is at leaving kids in the car,” said Dr. Russell Migita, an emergency room physician at Seattle Children’s Hospital. “Cracking a window or opening a sunroof doesn’t change things much.”
Unlike adults, small children can’t control their body temperature very well, he said. Their small bodies don’t sweat efficiently.
When body temperatures reach 104 degrees, heat stroke begins to set in and vital organs begin to fail.
The body “shuts down and everything starts breaking down,” Migita said.
Each year about 36 children die unattended in a car, Null said. In about half the cases, the children are forgotten. About 30 percent of the deaths occur when the child decides to play in the car, without an adult’s knowledge, and is overcome by the heat. About 20 percent of the deaths involve an adult who intentionally leaves a child behind.
April is when the deaths start to occur and they continue through the fall, Null said.
“Every single one is preventable. Every single one is a tragedy,” he said.
Always check to make sure a child isn’t left behind, Thornstenson said. She recommends placing a purse or briefcase in the back seat with the child as a reminder.
Some people place a teddy bear in the unoccupied child seat when not in use. When a child takes the toy’s place, the stuffed bear is brought up front, another way to spur the driver not to forget the child in the car, she said.
Judy Monson, 52, of Lynnwood lives down the street from where the child died. She attends church next to the nursing home and happened by the scene Monday afternoon.
“I feel very bad for her. It is unfortunate,” she said of the dead boy’s mother. “My hope and prayers, really, for the mom.”
Katya Yefimova: 425-339-3452, email@example.com