SALISBURY, N.C. -- Authorities are investigating after a baby was found dead inside of a car in the parking lot of the Salisbury VA Hospital Thursday afternoon.
Salisbury Police say they were called just after 4:30 p.m. by police at W.C. Bill Hefner Veteran Affairs Medical Center in reference to a death investigation.
“A coworker had been walking back to their car, I guess, saw the child, called them,” said Sheila Lingle, the spokesperson for Salisbury Police.
Lingle says a VA officer broke one of the car’s windows, unlocked the door and was able to unstrap the child from its carseat. She says they performed CPR until EMS arrived, but the baby was pronounced dead at the scene.
Hospital officials told NBC Charlotte that the baby belonged to an employee and called the incident a "tragic death". When asked what the employment status was of the employee, the hospital said it was a private matter.
An autopsy is being performed on the child Friday to determine the exact cause of death, but Lingle says the initial investigation indicates that the child died from being locked in a car with its windows up on a sunny 74-degree day.
“Say it’s 74 degrees outside and on the inside of a vehicle after sitting there for so long with its windows rolled up, it could get as hot as 125 degrees. And if it’s not in a shady spot, even hotter than that,” says Lingle.
Once autopsy results are in, Lingle says they’ll be presented to the district attorney, who will then decide whether or not to press charges.
Janice Williams with Safe Kids of Mecklenburg County is reminding caregivers that even as the temperatures start to come down, the danger of heat exposure is still there.
“The inside of a vehicle will heat up regardless of the outside temperature, past the outside temperature which a lot of people don’t realize,” says Williams.
Williams says a vehicle tends to heat up 19 degrees every 10 minutes.
“Children’s skin is very thin and they’re small sized, and so the heat outcomes are faster and so it takes less time if a child is left in a vehicle for them to have organ failure and bad outcomes,” says Williams.
So far this year, 36 children have died as a result of being left inside a hot car; two of them have been in North Carolina. Williams stresses there are ways it can be prevented.
“If you leave your purse or cellphone in the back with your child then you’re more likely to have to go back and get it,” she says.
Safe Kids also hands out free stickers, which are meant to be placed on the driver’s window to remind them there’s precious cargo in the back.
As for a good Samaritan’s rights, Officer Tim Aycock with Matthews Police Department, who partners with Safe Kids, says they always encourage anyone who sees a child locked in a car to dial 911, but he acknowledges there are some circumstances that require quick action.
“It would be that person’s decision but they would need to take the totality of that circumstance in question and make sure they’re making the right decision to help someone like that,” says Aycock.
The VA Hospital released the following statement Friday afternoon:
We were heartbroken to learn of the tragic death of an employee’s child on our campus this afternoon. We are a close-knit family here at the Salisbury VA Medical Center and we want to extend our deepest condolences to all those suffering from this loss. We ask the community to please keep all of those impacted in your thoughts and prayers. VA is cooperating with the Salisbury Police Department as they conduct their investigation. We are committed to helping our employees cope with this painful loss and our teams are standing by to offer any support they need.