An 11-year-old girl found in her Coram family's SUV died Tuesday despite her mother's efforts to revive her in what appears to be a heat-related tragedy, Suffolk police said.
The mother and her three daughters had returned home from errands, when at some point she realized one of the girls was missing from their Kathleen Crescent house, homicide Det. Lt. Kevin Beyrer said.
“The mother and two other kids were running errands doing day-to-day things," he said. "They went into the house and at some point in time realized that the 11-year-old was still in the car.” Police did not release the girl's name.
Rushing to the Ford Expedition, the mother saw her daughter in the middle seat, her lips already blue, she told 911 about 3:45 p.m., and after carrying her inside the house, the woman followed lifesaving instructions from Sixth Precinct officers and EMTs, police said.
But her efforts, and those of police and Coram Fire Department paramedics, were futile. The girl was pronounced dead at Stony Brook University Hospital, police said.
“Initially we suspect that it (the death) is heat-related," Beyrer said.
Asked whether the girl had any disabilities, Beyrer replied, ”We’re speaking to the family right now about the child’s condition. I don’t have a definitive answer on that.”
"It’s a tragedy," he said. "It’s similar to a drowning. It's something that doesn’t happen every day. It’s an unspeakable tragedy."
No charges have been filed, police said.
Homicide detectives were trying to determine how long the girl was in the vehicle, which had its windows closed on a day with scorching heat. Police declined to say whether the SUV had child-resistant locks. They were also looking into whether she had fallen asleep.
The National Weather Service had issued a heat advisory for the New York region from late Tuesday morning to 9 p.m. Wednesday.
Temperatures hit a high of 92 at Long Island MacArthur Airport on Tuesday, the weather service said. But automated weather stations in both Stony Brook and Shirley indicated that conditions from noon to 4 p.m. would have generally felt like around 100 degrees, when humidity was factored in with temperatures, said Faye Morrone, National Weather Service meteorologist in Upton.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, even cracking a window open in a car would not save its occupants during hot weather. Temperatures inside can rise almost 20 degrees in the first 10 minutes, the CDC said, and children left alone in parked vehicles are at the greatest risk for heat stroke and possibly death.
After the mother called 911, three Coram Fire Department paramedics rushed over in an ambulance and left with the girl in less than eight minutes, said William Bozeman, first assistant fire chief.
"When we got there, the patient was in one of the bedrooms," Bozeman said. "CPR was being done. They took over, did advanced life support and transported her to Stony Brook."
He added, "It's very sad. I'm a father myself. It's just heartbreaking to hear and go to calls like this."
Michael R. Lonergan, superintendent of the Longwood Central School District, said the girl was a student in the district. Crisis response teams have been mobilized to meet the needs of the students, staff, and school community, he said.
"We mourn the loss of a member of our school community who will be greatly missed," Lonergan said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends during this incredibly difficult time."
Neighbors in the family's housing complex, called Windmere Pines, teared up outside the home as they digested the sad news.
Zoila Schmitt, who said she has known the family for 21 years, called the 11-year-old girl a "beautiful little girl, little angel."
"I don’t even know what to say," Schmitt said, crying. "We’re all speechless here. It was just devastating to hear what was going on.”
She wanted to send the family what support she could: “We are here for you and we’re sending out our prayers and if they need anything we are there for them.”
With Patricia Kitchen and Janelle Griffith