Victim's family brings awareness about hot car deaths

May 4, 2012 9:17:25 PM PDT
A baby was killed Thursday after his father accidentally left him in his vehicle all day. A similar death involving a child inside a hot car caused a Houston mother to take action almost four years ago. Her son also died after being left in a hot car.

On August 13, 2008 the top story was about a child who died in a hot car. To understand what happened, you have turn back the clock to that summer morning. Christian Lacombe was usually dropped off at day care by his mom, but on that morning she was running late and she asked her mother, Donna Hicks, to do it instead on her way to work -- something that wasn't routine.

"And drove right past Repstore where I was supposed to turn to drop him off at his daycare. It was that fast.I just went straight into work mode," Hicks said.

She worked at her desk all day with no lunch break. Then she got a call in the afternoon from her daughter.

"And said, 'Don't forget to pick him up.' And I said, 'I won't.' And it hadn't dawned on me I'd forgotten to drop him off," said Hicks.

It didn't dawn on her until she got in her car to drive home.

"And looked back and saw his legs and I just started screaming," Hicks said.

This was her 911 call:

Operator: "911, what's your emergency?"
Hicks: Oh my God, I'm outside. My grandbaby is dead. I left him in the car!"

Christian was beyond medical help. He was gone. He was Delores Estis' only child. Donna, though, was her mother.

"It went from oh my gosh, my son is gone immediately to wait a minute, I'm not going to lose my mom, too," said Estis.

No charges were filed against Hicks. The story of children overlooked and left in hot cars is tragic, but also not rare. In 2010, 49 children died of heat stroke in cars. Of those deaths, 13 happened in Texas; the state led the nation that year.

"They were unintentionally left and the majority of persons who left them were not the normal transporters. Because we're creatures of habit, they forget," said Gwen Carter with CPS.

Tragedy cannot be erased, but it can serve a purpose. And for Donna Hicks and her daughter, it is to help other children and the families who love them.

"Just raising awareness again for the numbers to stop; getting it to zero would be a blessing," said Estis.

She now has a daughter about the same age as Christian when he was taken, and she and her mother have a mission -- they are part of a national campaign called KidsandCars.org, which lobbies for car makers to include alarms for child car seats.

In the absence of that, some reminders about a child on board: Place a teddy bear in the front seat. Or put your purse in the back beside the car seat.

And remember that we all put ourselves on auto pilot from time to time, and sometimes the consequences can haunt families for a lifetime.

"He was an amazing child," said Hicks.

The National Weather Service is also helping to raise awareness with its "Beat the Heat, Check the Back Seat" campaign.


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