LAKE CITY, Fla. – Columbia County deputies were outside the home where a 16-month old girl died Tuesday after being strapped in a hot car for most of the day, making sure no one tampered with evidence. Neighbors and family members, some in tears, were sharing their grief.
The girl was found not breathing about 3:15 p.m. in a car parked on SW Stafford Court. Paramedics tried to revive her, but were unable to save the child.
"So sad. There's not even words. I can't even imagine," said Erin Kirsch, who lives in the area.
The victim has not been named, but her mother is Assistant State Attorney Wendy Kwon, based in the Third Judicial Circuit's Lake City office, and her father is Young Kwon, a public defender.
The Sheriff's Office was told that the father forgot to take the child to day care Tuesday morning and left his daughter in the car all day. He discovered the girl in the car when he returned home.
"It's tragic," Columbia County Public Defender Blair Payne said. "There's no other way you can define this situation. It's a tragic accident at worst."
The investigation was turned over to FDLE at the request of Sheriff Mark Hunter since the victim's parents regularly interact with the Sheriff's Office. The Florida Department of Children and Families is also investigating.
Cynthia Dennis, of Safe Kids of Northeast Florida, said small children are incredibly susceptible to the heat, especially in a vehicle.
"It only takes about 10 minutes for a car to heat up 19 degrees, so it can reach lethal temperatures quickly. A child is more susceptible than adults to the heat. Their body heats up three to five times more quickly than an adult, and they suffer heatstroke, is what it is," Dennis said.
DCF has posted a Web page promoting summer safety and hot cars.