A 49-year-old woman is facing child neglect charges after police say she left her 5-year-old daughter in a hot car in the parking lot of the Costco on Gate Parkway at the St. Johns Town Center.
The store manager told police a customer reported a young girl was left in a car in the parking lot. According to the police report, that manager removed the girl from the car at about 1:45 p.m. because she had "sweat running down their face," but the child was otherwise unhurt.
Police said the manager tried to find the mother in the store prior to calling police, just before 2 p.m.
At about 2:30 p.m., Vivian Guo, the girl's mother, returned to her car. Police said she had left the windows of the vehicle barely cracked open to allow airflow.
Guo (pictured below) told police the girl didn't want to go into the store, and she thought it was OK to leave her in the car. Guo also told police her watch was not working and she didn't realize how long she was in the store.
Police said there was a large distance between the car and the front door of the store. The car was not visible from inside the building because the building has no windows on the side.
Guo was arrested on a charge of child neglect and taken to the Duval County jail. Guo was released on a $10,003 bond Monday afternoon.
Jessica Winberry, of the Players Center for Child Health, applauds the shopper who saw the child in the car alone for getting involved. That's how lives can be saved.
"If you're walking through a parking lot, instead of texting, observe what's going on around you and make sure you don't ever see a child in a car," Winberry said. "If you do, call 911 immediately. We don't know how long they've been left there. But this is not only the responsibility of a parent or caregiver, it should be the responsibility of an entire community.
Hot car deaths
So far in 2014 there have been at least 15 deaths of children left in vehicles in the United States, according to the San Francisco State University's department of Geo 12 confirmed as heatstroke and three are still pending official findings by the medical examiner. Last year, 2013, there were at least 44 deaths of children in vehicles; 39 which has been confirmed as heatstroke and five which, based upon the known circumstances, are most likely heatstroke.
Among the deaths this year were two in Georgia -- including the death of 22-month-old Cooper Harris left in a car while his father was at work -- and two in Florida: a 9-month-old in Rockledge and a 2-year-old in Sarasota. [See table of 2014 deaths at end of this article.]
According to the Players Center for Child Health, of the 15 children who died, 52 percent were left accidentally, 18 percent were left intentionally (perhaps only planned to be for a short time), and 29 percent of the victims got into the cars themselves.
"We're off to, unfortunately, a really bad start this year, with already having 15 deaths and we're only in July," said Jessica Winberry of Players Center. "We'll continue to see this happen, unfortunately."
The atmosphere and the windows of a car are relatively transparent to the sun’s radiation of head, but the sunlight does heat objects that it strikes. For example, a dark dashboard or seat can easily reach temperatures in the range of 180 to over 200 degrees.
- Heatstroke occurs when a person's temperature exceeds 104 degrees F and their thermoregulatory mechanism is overwhelmed. Symptoms include: dizziness, disorientation, agitation, confusion, sluggishness, seizure, hot dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty, loss of consciousness, rapid heart beat, hallucinations.
- A core body temperature of 107 degrees F or greater can be lethal as cells are damaged and internal organs begin to shut down.
- Children's thermoregulatory systems are not as efficient as an adult's and their body temperatures warm at a rate 3 to 5 times faster than an adult's.
A study by the SFSU measured how quickly the temperature of a car parked in the sun will rise:
- 10 minutes ~ 19 deg F
- 20 minutes ~ 29 deg F
- 30 minutes ~ 34 deg F
- 60 minutes ~ 43 deg F
- 1 to 2 hours ~ 45-50 deg F
The study also found that "cracking" the windows had little effect and the color of the interior of the vehicle was the biggest factor in how quickly the temperature will rise.