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3-year-old’s death in Georgia is at least the 6th heat-related car death of a US child this year, group says

By Jarrod Wardwell, Jason Hanna and Travis Caldwell, CNN

A 3-year-old boy died Sunday after being left in a hot car for nearly three hours in southern Georgia, a coroner’s office said, bringing the number of recorded heat-related deaths of children in a vehicle this year to at least six.

At least three such deaths have happened in June, according to the National Safety Council, as temperatures have soared with summer’s arrival and parts of the country have endured harsh heat waves. And the tally may be greater: It does not count Tuesday’s accidental death of an 18-month-old boy in Virginia who’d been left in a car — a case in which the cause has not yet been released.

On average, 38 children younger than 15 die from heatstroke each year after being left in a car, the council says.

In the Georgia case, the boy, Kendrick Engram Jr., had arrived home in an SUV in Columbus with his grandmother and other children around 5:30 p.m. Sunday, following an afternoon of attending church and running errands, according to a Muscogee County Coroner’s Office report on the child’s death.

The grandmother told investigators she believed all the children got out of her SUV when they made it home, the coroner’s report reads, and she then went to her bedroom. Kendrick’s mother was at work at the time and had met with the group at a nearby Walmart earlier during her lunch break, the report said.

Nearly three hours later at around 8:15 p.m., Kendrick’s uncle used the SUV to drive to a Wendy’s restaurant and was unaware the boy was in the back seat, according to the report. He parked the vehicle and went inside, where he later got a phone call from Kendrick’s grandmother asking if he had seen him.

The uncle found Kendrick in the car with “foam and blood coming from his mouth” and called for emergency medical assistance, which arrived two minutes after the call, the report said.

Kendrick was described as “extremely hot to the touch” at the scene, the report said, and showed no signs of life.

The preliminary cause of death is asphyxiation, Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan told CNN. Temperatures Sunday in the Columbus area reached as high as 96 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Weather Service.

Due to the circumstances of the child’s death, his body would be sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for an autopsy, the coroner’s office said. Autopsy results may take up to five months to complete, Bryan said.

CNN has reached out to the Columbus Police Department.

Toddler left in a car died, police said

In the Virginia case, an 18-month-old boy died after he was accidentally left in an unattended vehicle for several hours, Chesterfield County police said Tuesday. Police did not specify his cause of death, but the high temperature in Midlothian, about 20 miles west of Richmond, was around 81 degrees Fahrenheit that day.

And last week in Texas, a 5-year-old died after he was left inside a car outside the family’s Houston home. Meanwhile, four children were among 16 people rushed to San Antonio-area hospitals after they were found Monday in a sweltering semitruck packed with migrants in which 51 people died; the ages of those who perished have not been released yet.

The majority of pediatric hot-car deaths occur because the child is forgotten by a caregiver, according to data compiled by Jan Null, a lecturer at San Jose State University’s Department of Meteorology and Climate Science.

While the hottest months see the most deaths, hot-car deaths in children are a persistent problem across all months, and almost every state has reported an incident since 1998, according to the data.

The tragedies often draw national attention, as well sometimes as criminal repercussions. However, Georgia’s highest court this month overturned the murder conviction of a father sentenced to life without parole for the 2014 hot-car death of his 22-month-old son.

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that evidence submitted by prosecutors of Justin Ross Harris’ extramarital sexual relationships — which the state portrayed as the motivation behind his decision to kill his son, Cooper — had unfair prejudicial impact on the jury.

Defense attorneys had argued Cooper’s death was a tragic accident caused by his father’s lapse in memory.

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CNN’s Jalen Beckford contributed to this report.

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