RALEIGH — Norman Collins' life changed forever when he received the phone call that his 3-month-old grandson had died of heatstroke.
Through a fateful miscommunication on a Sunday morning, baby Bishop Collins' parents mistakenly left him in his carseat during a church service on a 93-degree day three years ago.
Collins, who lives in Raleigh, shared the story Friday morning at the Wake County Public Health Center in hopes of preventing someone else from making the same mistake.
"I don't like talking about it, but it's necessary," Collins said. "I don't want his dying to be in vain."
Collins appeared at an event organized by Wake Human Services and Safe Kids, a local education and advocacy group, to demonstrate the risks of heatstroke in hot cars as part of the national "Never Leave Your Child Alone in a Car" campaign.
Safe Kids staff placed trays of s'mores in the backseat of a Chevrolet Sonic hatchback late Friday morning, and in only about 10 minutes the chocolate and marshmallows began to melt. Nicholas Hudson, 10, of Raleigh got the point as he enjoyed a s'more.
"I learned that the temperature outside is not the same as the inside," Nicholas said.
A thermometer hooked up to the car read two temperatures: 89.5 degrees Fahrenheit outside, and 113 degrees inside. A car's temperature rises 20 degrees every 10 minutes, said Suzanne LeDoyen, a health educator with Wake County Human Services.
"It does not matter whether it's sunshine or it's cloudy," LeDoyen said.
Children's bodies can heat up three to five times faster than adults. Worse, they cannot cool themselves, LeDoyen said.
Each person who attended Friday's demonstration was asked to sign a three-part pledge to never leave their children alone in a car, to check their backseat before exiting and to call 911 if they observe an unattended child in a car.
Forty-three children under the age of 15 died of heatstroke in the United States last year after being left alone in a vehicle, according to a report from San Francisco State University. Since April of this year, 13 deaths have been reported.
In North Carolina, three cases of children being left alone in hot vehicles have been reported so far this year, though none resulted in deaths, LeDoyen said.
On Wednesday, a man left three girls under the age of 6 in a minivan while he entered a shopping center on Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh. Police removed the children and the man was charged with three counts of misdemeanor child abuse.
Most cases of children abandoned in cars are accidental, but the recent case of a Georgia man who left his 22-month-old child for seven hours shows that the reasons aren't always clear.
Bettis: 919-829-8955 @whatakaracter