A father died by suicide outside his Chesterfield, Virginia, home after police said he left his 18-month-old son inside his hot car on Tuesday. The child also died.
Family members called Chesterfield Police at about 11:42 a.m. after the father called relatives to tell them about the child's death and what he planned to do.
"As [police officers] were responding, they were advised that there may be a deceased child at the residence," Chesterfield Police Lt. Col. Christopher Hensley said. "Upon their arrival, they located a vehicle in the driveway with an open door with the empty child seat in the vehicle. As they made entry into the [Aldengate Road] residence, they found a deceased 18-month old inside. As they continued to check the perimeter of the residence, they found an adult male in the wooded area behind the house deceased from an apparent gunshot wound."
Police said it appeared the child was left in the car for up to three hours, but more law enforcement is continuing its investigation.
"At some point in time, it appears the father realized that the child was in the vehicle and then either returned to his residence and took the child inside. And then phone calls were made to the police advising us that that situation was going on," Hensley said.
Hensley called the situation a "horrible tragedy on so many levels."
"Our hearts go out to the family and friends that are going to deal with this," he said. "But we would be remiss in not taking the opportunity for people to take this moment and realize how important it is to obviously check your vehicles as you go through."
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offered five pieces of advice to help adult drivers who transport children:
- Never leave a child in a vehicle unattended — even if the windows are partially open or the engine is running, and the air conditioning is on.
- Make it a habit to check your entire vehicle — front and back — before locking the door and walking away.
- Ask your childcare provider to call if your child doesn’t show up for care as expected.
- Place a personal item like a purse or briefcase in the back seat, as another reminder to look before you lock. Write a note or place a stuffed animal in the passenger's seat to remind you that a child is in the back seat.
- Store car keys out of a child's reach and teach children that a vehicle is not a play area.
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