Alabama child dies in USA’s first reported hot car death of 2023; murder charge for father

The nation’s first reported hot car death of 2023 occurred Monday, Feb. 27, in Atmore, Alabama, according to the advocacy group Kids and Car Safety.

A 51-year-old Atmore man, Shawn Rounsavall, has been charged with reckless murder in the death of the two-year-old child, who was left unattended in a vehicle for several hours and died at a local hospital, said.

Hot car deaths in February are rare. There have only been six such deaths since 1998, including the one Monday, the website reported. However, there have been hot car deaths during all months of the year, Kids and Car Safety director Amber Rollins told USA TODAY.

According to the Atmore Advance, the Atmore Police Department said that Rounsavall was arrested after the department was contacted by Atmore Community Hospital in reference to a child who was allegedly left unattended in a vehicle for several hours. The child was pronounced deceased by medical staff a short time after being transported to the hospital by Rounsavall.

Police said the child was evidently left in the vehicle for 8 hours instead of being dropped off at daycare by the father. 

An image of a map tracking hot car deaths in the US in 2022

At what temperature can hot car deaths happen?

According to data from the National Weather Service, the high temperature in Atmore Monday was 80 degrees. Temperatures inside a closed car can soar to 123 degrees after just one hour on an 80-degree day, according to the website, which is run by meteorologist Jan Null of Golden Gate Weather Services. 

That website said “when a core body temperature of 107 degrees or greater is reached, then cells are damaged and internal organs begin to shut down. This cascade of events can rapidly lead to death.”

How common are hot car deaths?

More than 1,052 children have died in hot cars since 1990 and at least another 7,300 survived with varying types of injuries, according to data collected by Kids and Car Safety. On average, 38 kids die every year in hot cars. 

Approximately 88% of children who die in hot cars are age 3 or younger and the majority (55%) were unknowingly left by an otherwise loving, responsible parent or caregiver.

Rollins also told USA TODAY that to charge someone with murder so quickly “is quite rare and heartbreaking. We believe very strongly that ALL child deaths should be thoroughly investigated, but to charge someone before any investigation has taken place is rare.” 

Per: USA Today

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