ARIZONA NEWS

4-month-old girl left in vehicle by guardian found dead in Phoenix

Oct 1, 2019, 4:39 PM | Updated: Oct 3, 2019, 6:29 pm

PHOENIX – A 4-month-old girl died Tuesday after being left in a vehicle by her guardian, a Phoenix school district employee, authorities said.

Emergency crews were called to the Washington Elementary School District Service Center on 39th Avenue north of Cactus Road just before 4 p.m., Capt. Rob McDade of the Phoenix Fire Department told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

The baby could not be resuscitated and was pronounced dead at the scene, McDade said.

“The child was probably deceased for an unknown amount of time and enough to where we just could not intervene,” McDade said.

There was no indication of foul play, Phoenix Police Detective Luis Samudio said during a press conference at the scene.

The girl’s guardian is an employee at the service center, which is the district’s school bus barn and also has office facilities.

The 56-year-old man is an administrator, not a bus driver, and was driving his personal vehicle, Samudio said.

Samudio said the man had dropped off several kids at daycare before going to work in the morning. He later left work to pick up the baby and go to an appointment.

He returned to work after the appointment and left the girl in her car seat. Samudio said he didn’t know why the man left the child.

“When he decides to leave work, after 3:30 or so, is when he noticed that he forgot his child in the car,” Samudio said.

Samudio said the man is known for helping children in need, including by adopting and fostering children.

It was unclear if the deceased girl was adopted or a foster child, Samudio said. (UPDATE: Authorities said the man was the girl’s foster father.)

“Him and his wife are people that are always willing to help others,” he said. “This is a mishap that happened.”

This investigation was ongoing, and it was too soon to determine if charges would be filed, Samudio said.

In a statement, the Washington Elementary School District said it was “heartbroken” about the incident.

“Our hearts go out to our staff member, his family and all of his colleagues who are grieving this tragic loss,” the school district said.

The National Weather Service in Phoenix said the temperature was forecast to reach 90 degrees. It’s unknown what the temperature was inside the vehicle.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the inside of a car can heat up to 120 degrees in 30 minutes even when the outside temperature is 85 degrees.

According to KidsAndCars.org, there have been three previous hot car deaths in Arizona this year, two in the Valley. The group said the nationwide total before Tuesday was 45, with two more cases where heat hadn’t yet been confirmed as playing a role in the deaths.

Dawn Peabody of KidsAndCars.org told KTAR News last month that most hot car deaths are accidents, not cases where the caretaker purposely left a child in the car without understanding the danger.

“The most common type of this incident is a parent that had a change of routine, or some adult that was driving the child had some change of routine, and misremembered … having their child with them, which resulted in them forgetting they had the child in the back seat,” she said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Griselda Zetino and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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4-month-old girl left in vehicle by guardian found dead in Phoenix