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Police investigate 
child left in hot car

By Laura Garcia
June 21, 2010 at 7:08 p.m.

Investigators believe a Longview man who was arrested Friday in connection with his 2-year-old daughter's death didn't intentionally leave her in a hot car, an official said Monday.

Gabriel Bocanegra, 41, was released Saturday from Gregg County Jail on $20,000 bond. He is charged with injury to a child.

His daughter, Melody Bocanegra, was found unresponsive about 1 p.m. Friday after reportedly being left inside a hot vehicle for about five hours.

Longview Police spokesman Sgt. Ben Kemper said the investigators are still working the case, but they believe the child's death was accidental.

Friday's high temperature recorded at 3:34 p.m. was 96 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. A vehicle's interior can reach 120 degrees in about 30 minutes with outside temperatures in the low 90s, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

Shari Pulliam, the department's regional public information officer, said if children are trapped inside cars, especially during seriously hot weather, it can result in heat exhaustion or heat stroke, leading to permanent disability or death in a matter of minutes.

Heat stroke, or hyperthermia, can cause shock, seizures, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, and damage to the brain, liver, and kidneys, Pulliam said.

Circumstances in these cases vary from a change in routine where one of the parents forgets they have the child in the car, a negligent caretaker leaving the child in a car while they shop or children playing in the car and are unable to get out, according to Jan Null, a San Francisco State University meteorology professor.

Some people suggest leaving a purse or cell phone near the child in the backseat so a sleeping child is not forgotten.

According to a study by Null, 51 percent of hot car-related child deaths since 1998 were because a caregiver had forgotten them. Another 30 percent were because a child was playing in an unattended car and 18 percent died because they were intentionally left in the vehicle by an adult. In one percent of cases the reason was unknown.

Null found that "cracking" a window made little difference.

The studies suggest darker interiors are prone to higher temperatures and a dark dashboard or seat can easily reach temperatures in the range of 180 to more than 200 degrees.

Texas law states if a person leaves a child in a vehicle for longer than five minutes knowing the child is younger than 7 years old and not being watched by an individual in the vehicle who is age 14 or older, they could face six months to two years in jail and a fine up to $10,000.



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