Toddler dies in family's hot car

August 20, 2010 9:25:23 AM PDT
It's a sad reminder of how deadly our summer heat can be: a toddler died on Thursday afternoon after being forgotten in a car. But one group is working to prevent such tragedies. The organization that tracks these kinds of deaths says that Texas leads the nation this year with 10 children dying in hot cars. And a local mother who's been through it before is trying to change that.

"You cannot find better people that you'd want as neighbors," neighbor W. Angelo McDaniel said of the family who lost a child in a hot car Thursday. "They invest enormous amount of time with their children."

On Thursday, the latest victim was a two-year-old Canadian boy visiting relatives in the 13000 block of Dentwood Street. Khoa Nguyen had only celebrated his second birthday on August 5.

Family members got home from the grocery store, went inside and were tending to his seven-year-old brother who has autism and was suffering from a seizure.

"Since they're visiting from out of town, they're in a strange location, they were trying to get everything set for him, and some of the other kids were playing video games and in the confusion, misplaced the two-year-old," Harris County Sheriff's Office Homicide Sgt. Ben Beall said.

About two hours later, the father realized his two-year-old son wasn't in the house. Family members found Khoa unconscious, locked in the car.

They called for an ambulance, and the child was transported to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 3:36pm.

It's a story that hits home with Delores Estis.

"Every single parent that I've met and talked to believed that it couldn't happen to them -- and it did," she said.

In 2008, Estis' three-year-old son, Christian LaCombe, died in his grandmother's hot car. It was the grandmother's first time to take him to day care, but she forgot to drop him off.

"It's just as a simple as getting a phone call on your regular routine and thinking, oh yeah I dropped my daughter off, I dropped my son off at day care and you didn't, and it's tragic," Estis said.

Estis started a local foundation to raise awareness.

"If you put your briefcase in the back seat, your purse, it reminds you that your child is back there, and you have to reach back there to get your cell phone, you have to reach back there to get your purse," she said.

Estis says children who die in hot cars come from all races and economic backgrounds.

"It's happened to rocket scientists. It's happened to principals. It's happened to a social worker," Estis said. "It has happened to the best parents you can possibly imagine."

Raising awareness is her way of keeping LaCombe alive.

Estis says they're also lobbying car companies to see if there's some sort of alarm or warning system in the cars as a reminder to parents.


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