When Changing Routines Leads to Tragedy


July 16, 2012

In what has been called the hottest summer on record, stories of two babies—both left strapped inside vehicles by forgetful parents—brings shock, sadness and outrage that not one but two parents could be so careless during a heat wave. Advocates for child safety report that this very thing happens much more often than we realize—and it happens to parents from all walks of life.

President and founder of KidsAndCars.org, Janette Fennell, states that in nearly all cases when such incidents takes place it happens to parents who are extremely careful about the safety of their babies. College professors, ministers and lawyers are among the substantial number of parents who have left their baby in a car on a hot day. Only a handful of these tragic cases come from drug-addicted parents or those who have had numerous run-ins with Child Protection Services (CPS).

There have been 550 cases across America since 1998 in which a child died from hyperthermia or heat stroke after being forgotten in a closed vehicle. There were 51 children in 2010 and 33 in 2011, ranging in ages from five days to 14 years old, who suffered such a fate. Over half of the children who died from the exposure were under the age of two. Over half of the 550 cases were from parents who didn’t realize they had left their child in the car while 17% left the child in the car knowingly. Almost a third of the cases occurred when a child managed to get into a car on their own then could not get out. The question on every parent’s mind is how any loving parent could forget their child.

Joshua Stryzinski, an 18-year old father of a four-month old daughter had stopped by a friend’s house with his baby, changing her into cooler sleeveless clothing while there. The friend strapped the baby girl into her car seat in the back of Joshua’s 2002 Saturn and Joshua headed over to his parent’s house in Greenfield. When Joshua arrived at his family’s home there was lots of activity going on; his brother was painting the house while other family members were making preparations for an upcoming vacation. Joshua talked to his father for a bit, then a couple of hours into the visit remembered he needed to pick up the baby’s mother from her shift at the local Arby’s.

When Joshua saw the lifeless body of his tiny baby daughter in the back seat he screamed in horror, grabbing the car seat with the baby in it and rushing her inside the family home. Joshua’s father administered CPR as the baby was rushed to an emergency room only a couple of blocks away where on-call physicians pronounced her dead. The baby had severe burns across her uncovered arms and legs. Stryzinski was charged with neglect which led to death and has since entered a plea of not guilty and posted a $50,000 cash bond. Stryzinski told police that although he had watched his friend buckle the baby into the car seat when he arrived at his parent’s home he had forgotten, thinking the friend was still looking after the baby. “The normal routine,” Stryzinski said, “is that someone is always watching my kid.”

The other case involved a 30-year old mother, Meg Trueblood, who left her toddler in the car in the parking lot while she shopped at a clothing store. The child suffered a seizure, but survived the incident and Trueblood, like Stryzinski, has been charged with neglect of a dependent. There are no statements of what Trueblood’s reasoning was for leaving the baby in the back of her 2004 Ford Explorer. This story could also have ended tragically except a store customer noticed the child and returned to tell the store manager. They both returned to the Explorer noticing the windows were up and the doors were locked whereupon they called 911. Police showed up approximately five and a half minutes later and after going inside the store to ask who owned the Explorer—with no response—he returned to the parking lot and smashed the window in to remove the child. As medics arrived the toddler began convulsing. During the time the officer was administering aid to the baby, Trueblood showed up, identifying herself as the child’s mother. Investigators measured the inside temperature of the Ford Explorer and found it to be a scorching 120 degrees. Trueblood has since been released on bond.

New parents are perhaps the most vulnerable to having such a tragedy occur; they are sleep-deprived and engaging in new routines to which they are not accustomed. In truth, however, it can happen to anyone. Experts advise parents to put something they need—like a cell phone—in the back with the baby which will make the parent look in the back seat and also to get in the habit of “look before you lock.”

If your loved one dies because of negligence, our experienced Georgia personal injury attorneys may be able to answer your questions and advise you regarding your legal rights and remedies. Call now for your FREE CONSULTATION with Montlick and Associates. Our attorneys are available to help you and may even visit you if needed. You can call us anytime 24/7 at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333) for a FREE CONSULTATION. Alternatively, you can visit our website at www.montlick.com to make use of our FREE CASE EVALUATION FORM or 24-hour live online chat service.

Category: Personal Injury

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