RALEIGH — On a warm Florida day in 2010, Reginald McKinnon joined what he would later refer to as an exclusive club that no one wants to join: parents who lost their children to automobile heat strokes.
He had taken his 17-month-old daughter to a doctors appointment, then completely forgot she was in the car as he returned to work. He discovered her unresponsive body in the back of the vehicle when he later went out for lunch.
McKinnon was the closing speaker at a news conference Wednesday at Wake Techs Public Safety Education Campus, where child safety officials detailed the dangers associated with leaving children in unattended vehicles.
Were focused on preventing accidental injuries to kids, said Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids, the child safety advocacy group that sponsored the event.
The subject seems even more urgent in the midst of a summer of record-breaking heat in the Triangle.
Summer has arrived with a vengeance, said State Fire Marshal and Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodman, who mentioned last months death of a 2-year-old in an overheated vehicle in Burke County. It was the first such death in North Carolina since 2009.
Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said the circumstances that led to the death of McKinnons daughter could easily have happened to any parent.
We are creatures of habit, said Harrison. People have their routines, they get a call from work, and they forget they have someone in the car with them.
Carr said a childs body is particularly vulnerable to hyperthermia. Children heat up three to four times faster than adults, she said.
When a childs internal temperature reaches 104 degrees, his internal organs begin to shut down, Carr said.
David Strickland, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, urged parents to be vigilant in protecting their children.
The solution is in our hands right now awareness, protection, living in a village, he said.
After the remarks from McKinnon, the news conference turned into an outdoor demonstration. On a patch of grass outside the building, pictures of all the victims nationwide of automobile heatstroke in 2010 were erected like tombstones. The ages of the victims ranged from 2 months to 6 years.
Its fitting were all uncomfortable in the heat, said Jeffrey Hammerstein, district chief of Wake County EMS. This way, we can have a better understanding.
In the demonstration, an actor approached a car and immediately dialed a 911 operator. Soon afterward, EMS and a fire truck arrived to get the door open.
The event concluded when the N.C. Honor Guard ceremoniously placed a wreath beside the memorial to heatstroke victims.