Mother charged in death of toddler left in hot car

Chaya Shurkin, 25

A 25-year-old New Jersey woman is facing criminal charges over the death of her toddler in a hot car.

Police responded to a report of a 21-month-old girl who was found unresponsive inside her family’s car.  When they arrived at the scene, they saw a neighbor performing CPR on the infant.

First responders then rushed the girl to the hospital where she was pronounced dead soon afterward.

A thorough and extensive investigation revealed that the child had been left alone in the vehicle for approximately 2 1/2 hours with the car turned off.

It was sunny, and the temperature was only 66 degrees when the child was found unconscious.  

Only 66 degrees.

That is actually considered a cool day for us here in the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry.  But while this outside temperature is considered mild, the inside of a car can quickly heat up to 100 degrees within minutes.

On average, 38 children die from heat-related deaths after being trapped inside vehicles every year. 

So far, eleven children have died this year from vehicular heatstroke.

According to, a child dies from heat stroke in a car every 10 days on average. Fatalities have been reported in nearly all 50 states, and 11 months out of the year. That’s because even on a 70-degree day, temperatures inside your vehicle can quickly rise to 110 degrees.

Animals, too, are very susceptible to heat stroke because they can only cool themselves by panting. Dogs can sustain brain damage or die from heat stroke in just 15 minutes.

Sadly, there are a few myths out there that may be contributing to the statistics.

Myth #1: “I’ll only be a minute.” You may think you can run into the store, find exactly what you need, avoid a line at checkout and be back in your car in 60 seconds but really, when has this ever happened in anyone’s lifetime? Odds are that there are many things that will delay your return. Is it worth placing your child and pet in danger?

Myth #2: “I’ll leave the windows cracked.” Leaving a window cracked makes approximately a 2-degree difference – so little that it doesn’t help at all. In ten minutes, the temperature still goes up 20 degrees, 34 degrees in a half-hour and 43 degrees in one hour. Add to this the fact that children are quicker to overheat – up to five times faster than an adult – because of their size and because they have not yet developed the ability to cool down through sweating.

Myth #3: “It’s only 70 degrees outside so it’s safe.” Children and pets have died from heat stroke in a car when the outside temperature is barely above 70 degrees. Depending on the breed of dog, existing medical conditions, age and weight, even temperatures in the 60s can be dangerous. One study conducted in San Francisco measured the temperature inside a parked car on a 72-degree day. Within 30 minutes, it was over 110 degrees.

Myth #4: “I’ll leave water in the car with my dog/child.” Water can prevent dehydration but it does very little to prevent heat stroke.

Myth #5: “I’ll leave the air conditioner running.” This idea can easily backfire. The truth is that the compressor on the air conditioner can fail or your dog could bump it and the air blowing in the car will quickly turn from cool to hot, which will speed up the rising temperature instead. Sadly, several dogs in K9 patrol cars have died this way recently. If it can happen to the police, it can happen to you.


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