(CNN) — A 5-year-old boy has died after his mother left him in a car outside the family’s home in Houston as she prepared for her daughter’s birthday party Monday, a police officer told affiliate KTRK. from CNN.
The mother was in a hurry when she got home with her 8-year-old son and daughter, and the little boy was left in the car when she and her daughter entered the house, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez told KTRK.
It wasn’t until two or three hours later that the mother realized her son was still buckled in his car seat, Gonzalez said.
“This time the boy didn’t make it out and again with the activities they were doing, it took them a while to realize that the boy wasn’t in the house,” Gonzalez told KTRK.
First responders pronounced the boy dead at the scene, the sheriff said. It’s unclear if the mother will face charges, KTRK reported.
Temperatures in Houston hit a record high Monday, when Houston Hobby Airport reported a high of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, according to CNN Weather.
Although the boy knew how to unbuckle his seat belt, investigators believe he was unfamiliar with the vehicle because it was a rental car.
“The door didn’t have any kind of child safety lock activated or anything like that,” Gonzales said.
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), an average of 38 children under the age of 15 die each year from heat stroke after being left in a car. Children’s body temperature rises much faster than that of adults, and they can begin to suffer from heat stroke when their temperature reaches 40 degrees. A body temperature of 42 degrees can be deadly, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Most pediatric car heat deaths occur because the child is forgotten by their caregiver, according to data compiled by Jan Null, a professor in the Department of Meteorology and Climate Sciences at San Jose State University.
Although the hottest months see the most such tragedies, child deaths in hot vehicles are a persistent problem every month, with nearly every state reporting an incident since 1998, according to data. .
The NHTSA recommends that caregivers never leave children unattended in a car, even if it is running with the air conditioning on or the windows down. The agency also advises that people get into the habit of checking the front and back seats of a car before leaving it and placing a personal item like a purse or briefcase in the back seat to make sure someone checks it before leaving.
CNN’s Elizabeth Wolfe contributed to this report.