RCMP have launched an investigation after a baby who was left for hours in a vehicle in a busy neighborhood in Burnaby, B.C., died despite efforts to resuscitate him.
“We want to be thorough. The infant deserves that,” Chief Superintendent Deanne Burleigh, officer in charge of the Burnaby RCMP detachment, told a news conference on Friday. “We speak for the victim.”
A day earlier, Mounties responded at 5:45 p.m. to a 911 call about an unconscious baby in a vehicle parked in an area of Burnaby, which is east of Vancouver, that includes a park, apartment buildings and businesses. The temperature was about 20 degrees in a spell of unusually warm weather.
The child, aged 16 months, was taken to hospital.
Police disclosed the incident on Friday.
In a statement, the RCMP said officers found the baby’s father in the area and that both parents are co-operating in the investigation.
The superintendent said police can say only that the child was in the car for “several hours,” and investigators are gathering evidence to determine a more precise timeline.
Victim services workers have been called in to help the family, who are also being attended to by friends and relatives, Supt. Burleigh said.
“I can’t imagine how the parents are coping. As a parent myself, I can’t imagine how I would cope,” she said.
She called the incident a heartbreaking tragedy.
“It’s horrible. There’s no words to describe what anybody would be feeling right now, any of the first responders who attended, anybody at the hospital, any of the family members.”
Supt. Burleigh reminded parents that children must be the focus of adults caring for them until they are put into the care of another adult.
“It’s about not leaving children at any point unattended in a vehicle," she said. "Make sure you’ve delivered them where they need to be delivered. We’re [in] a heat wave right now. Please don’t leave your children unattended in a car, [at] any age.”
Supt. Burleigh said no one has been arrested.
“At the moment, it’s all about interviews. We’re interviewing witnesses, families, neighborhood and anybody in the area,” she said. “We will be as efficient and quick as we can, but we want to cover all our bases and make sure the investigation is thorough.”
The BC Coroners Service, which looks into all child deaths in the province, has also launched an investigation.
Andy Watson of the service said in an e-mail exchange that while police have a fault-finding role to see if criminality is involved, the service may make recommendations on how to prevent deaths in similar circumstances.
Mr. Watson said he was not aware of any previous deaths in B.C. involving a child left unattended in a vehicle.
In a statement on its website, the Canada Safety Council says an average of 37 deaths involving children left in vehicles occur in the United States each year, but no statistics are available for Canadian cases.
The council statement says children can be left in a car unintentionally, “forgotten in a moment of absent-mindedness” or trapped after playing unsupervised in an unlocked vehicle.
The council suggests parents make a habit of placing their cellphone, purse or wallet close to the child seat so they always see the child before they leave the vehicle.