Overheated babies

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Sunday, July 6, 2014


JUSTIN Ross Harris of Marietta, Georgia is accused of killing his 22-month-old son Cooper by leaving him inside a hot car last June 18.
Harris, 33, awaits trial for felony murder and second degree child cruelty.

Harris was supposed to drop his son off at day care but instead he went to work, claiming he forgot his son was still strapped into the car seat at the back.

Cooper died from hyperthermia, or overheating of the body. The temperature that day was 91 degrees Fahrenheit or around 33 degrees Celsius.

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Initial investigation showed that Cooper’s death may have been premeditated.

Harris had done online searches on what temperature could kill a child inside a vehicle. He also put something in his car during the day while
his son was inside.

But here’s what Harris told police: that he was a doting father, and “always kissed his son when he strapped him into the car seat.”

A close friend of Harris said he always talked about how much he loved Cooper.

A defense witness said Harris appeared distraught when he realized his son had died, and that he had tried to resuscitate him.

The www.washingtonpost.com had posted this article, “Fatal Distract: Forgetting a child in the backseat of a car is a horrifying mistake. Is it a crime?”

Here’s an excerpt: “The charge in the courtroom was manslaughter, brought by the Commonwealth of Virginia. No significant facts were in dispute.

Miles Harrison, 49, was an amiable person, a diligent businessman and a
doting, conscientious father until the day last summer--beset by problems at work, making call after call on his cell phone--he forgot to drop his son, Chase, at day care. The toddler slowly sweltered to death, strapped into a car seat for nearly nine hours in an office parking lot in Herndon in the blistering heat of July.

“It was an inexplicable, inexcusable mistake, but was it a crime? That was the question for a judge to decide.”

Both cases are not isolated.

According to statistics from the Department of Earth and Climate Sciences at the San Francisco State University, 13 children have died so far this year. Forty-four last year.

The average number of US child heatstroke fatalities every year since 1998 is 38.

Half of them were “forgotten” by their caregivers, while 18 percent were “intentionally” left in the car.

In Harris’ case, more than 11,000 people have signed a petition asking the district attorney’s office to drop the charges against him, “believing they are too harsh for a caring father who has been punished enough with the loss of his child.”

Seriously?

I was watching a segment on Inside Edition, an American newsmagazine, where they carried suggestions on how not to forget your child is strapped into a car seat at the back. One of them was to drive with only one shoe, leaving the other at the back. That way, when the driver is about to leave, he or she will be forced to retrieve the other shoe at the back and, lo and behold, not forget the child.

Genius!

I’m not sure if this has ever happened here in the Philippines. More often than not, the child is at the driver’s seat, tiny hands on the steering wheel. Or being fawned over by a sibling, a parent, an aunt or an uncle, or a yaya. But never alone in the back. Never.

***

Sun.Star Senior Reporter Elias O. Baquero, president of Cebu Federation of Beat Journalists and Cebu Newscoop, has been reelected as president of the Rotary Club of Cebu East. Congratulations, Mayor!

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 06, 2014.

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