By NICOLE PELLETIERE, ABC News
(LITTLE ROCK, Ark.) — A 1-year-old toddler is in critical condition and her 3-year-old sister has tragically died after a reported hot car-related incident.
On Monday, Arkansas State Police (ASP) received a call from 21-year-old mother Kaylee Petchenik who said she woke up from a nap and her children were missing.
Both girls were found unconscious inside their mother’s parked car on the back floorboard by a Booneville police officer who responded to the call.
“Laykn Petchenik was later pronounced dead at a Booneville hospital,” the ASP wrote in a news release. “Her body has been transported to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory for purposes of an autopsy. Olivia Petchenik remains hospitalized in Little Rock.”
The ASP Criminal Investigation Division has launched an investigation and will submit a case file to the Logan County prosecuting attorney for consideration, the ASP said.
This marks the nation’s eleventh hot car death so far in 2020, according to data recorded by KidsAndCars.org. The last two years had the highest amount of child hot car deaths in history with a total of at least 107 children that died nationwide.
There are no details on how the Petchenik children got into the vehicle, and if whether or not they entered on their own.
Still, hot car-related incidents are a real danger parents need to be aware of, said Janette Fennell, president and founder of KidsAndCars.org.
According to Kids and Cars, child hot car deaths vary by circumstance with 56% of kids being unknowingly left inside a vehicle to die, 26% entered on their own and were stuck inside, 14% are knowingly left and 3% the circumstances are unclear.
Fennell Good Morning America, that this year alone, the number of fatalities which involved children entering vehicles on their own have jumped to 55%.
Fennell said the increase could be due to families being home during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“In many cases the kids end up on the floorboards, so when people look inside [the car] they don’t see them. It’s just heartbreaking that these kids die in their own driveways,” Fennell explained.
Fennell said if you cannot locate your child and don’t have a body of water or swimming pool, look inside vehicles or in trunks.
Safety tips to make sure children cannot get into a parked car:
1. Keep vehicles locked at all times, especially in the garage or driveway. Ask neighbors and visitors to do the same.
2. Never leave car keys within reach of children.
3. Teach children to honk the horn if they become stuck inside a car.
4. If a child is missing, immediately check the inside, floorboards and trunk of all vehicles in the area very carefully.
The Hot Cars Act, which passed on July 1 in the House of Representatives, is a federal bill that would require available, affordable technology to detect the presence of a child inside a vehicle. Fennell stresses that parents should have additional layers of protection when trying to prevent hot car-related tragedies.
There is no word yet on when the bill will be voted on in the Senate.
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