HEAT-RELATED TRAGEDY

Community rocked by toddler’s car death

The Globe and Mail

Diego and Camila Ruiz, 8 and 6, bring flowers to the Milton, Ont., home where a two-year-old boy died of heat stroke on Wednesday after spending considerable time in a very hot car. (Matthew Sherwood FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

Questions linger after a two-year-old Ontario boy was found dead in a sweltering car Wednesday.

Halton Regional Police continue to investigate the death and say an autopsy shows the boy died after being left in the car for “an extended period of time” as temperatures climbed to 31 C. He was found in a car parked outside the rear garage of a townhouse in Milton, west of Toronto.

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Police and paramedics arrived in the quiet, suburban neighbourhood around 5 p.m. Wednesday, according to a next-door neighbour who asked not to be named.

He said police urged onlooking neighbours to go inside, but from his second-storey deck he saw both parents discovering the news of their son’s death.

Police then escorted the family away before beginning a forensic investigation and towing the car away later that night. Neighbours told The Globe and Mail they had been questioned by police Wednesday night.

No charges have been laid.

Detectives are still talking to neighbours to determine “the exact sequence of events,” police said. Further toxicology tests are being conducted.

It is unclear how much time the boy spent in the car before paramedics were called. The boy’s father was at work and his mother was at an appointment at the time, police said. His five-year-old sister was at school.

Both the front steps and rear garage were lined with flowers and gifts on Thursday evening, including a teddy bear from the Halton police.

Residents of the street are struggling to come to grips with the tragedy.

“I’m just in shock,” said Shireen Dietrich, a 37-year-old recruiter who was home on Wednesday. “A lot of us on the street actually work from home and were home and it’s just killing all of us that we were literally steps away and we did not know what was going on.”

Another neighbour, Hadil Lewis, has two small children close to the same age. She was brought to tears talking about the boy’s death.

“You hear it on the news, but when it happens in your neighbourhood, it’s different.”

As is routine, homicide detectives are investigating the case because it involves the sudden death of a child under the age of five.

In a different case in nearby Markham, a mother was arrested Thursday and is facing a child abandonment charge after police found her two-year-old daughter locked in the back seat of a car in a hot parking lot. The girl was taken to hospital to be assessed for heat stroke. Police believe she was in the car for about 30 minutes.

So far this year, 15 children have died after suffering heat strokes in cars in the U.S., according to the public-safety awareness website, kidsandcars.org.